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IMSE researcher, local insurance company partner to improve driving safety

A student wears armbands and glasses that allow for motion tracking.

Jackson Smith, an undergraduate researcher in Jung Hyup Kim’s lab, demonstrates the wearable technology that allows researchers to track drivers’ responses to collision avoidance technology devices.

When Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance Company needed to test how automobile drivers responded to alerts from collision avoidance technology devices, it turned to an expert right here in Columbia.

Jung Hyup Kim, an assistant professor with MU’s Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering Department, is an expert in human-in-the-loop simulations, and his lab currently is partnering with the Columbia-based insurance company to test how drivers react when collision avoidance technology (CAT) devices alert them to potential dangers.

“Airbags can save human lives, but they can’t protect from accidents. Now the technology is much better, so the driver can be aware of the accident before it happens,” Kim said. “For insurance companies, this research can offer their producers and policy holders a number of affordable options for crash avoidance technology products they can use to prevent vehicle accidents.”

A student sits in a car full of gadgets. Photo is from the front of the car through the windshield.

A myriad of collision avoidance technology, eye tracking and motion capture devices populate the car used in Jung Hyup Kim’s research.

Missouri Employers Mutual wanted to study different existing collision avoidance technologies — radar sensor, windshield-mounted vision sensor, high dynamic range dash cam— to ascertain which are most likely to produce the desired behavior in a driver once alerted. The CAT devices function differently, but the goal is to let drivers know when they’re drifting into other lanes, approaching an automobile ahead of them at too rapid a speed, driving too closely to other automobiles and more.

“If there’s an inconsistency between the machine and human response, it will create more confusion,” Kim said. “We want to figure out how humans respond to these new warning systems, and through this research, we might be able to figure out human behavior in driving. And in the long run, we might improve the safety of driving.”

Portrait of Jung Hyup Kim

Jung Hyup Kim, an assistant professor with MU’s Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering Department, currently is partnering with the Missouri Employers Mutual to test how drivers react when collision avoidance technology (CAT) devices alert them to potential dangers.

The simulation Kim and his research assistants — undergraduate Jackson Smith and graduate student Xiaonan Yang — have set up involves having volunteer drivers take a 2007 Chevy Malibu and drive in a loop around Columbia that incorporates both city and highway driving. The course takes about 20 minutes to complete, and each driver does it three times. Meanwhile, a set of cameras, an eye-tracking device and an arm position device are providing data on how drivers react to the alerts.

“Whenever we have someone driving, we’ll be giving them directions and noting all that information,” Smith said. “It’s a pretty simple route. Most of our devices, they’ll start going off once you hit 30 miles-per-hour.”

The goal, Kim said, is to provide actionable data for MEM and hopefully secure funding from the company to move on to additional phases of the project after the initial phase ends in July.

The project is ongoing, and volunteer drivers are needed. If interested, please contact Yang at xyr29@mail.missouri.edu for more details.