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MIT Research Reveals that New Technology Lowers Stress in Drivers

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On: Fri, Nov 12, 2010 at 3:27PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

MIT Research Reveals that New Technology Lowers Stress in Drivers

A new study conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s New England University Transportation Center (NEUTC) revealed that drivers experience less stress when using specific advanced auto technology, such as the self-park feature.

A specially equipped 2010 Lincoln MKS test vehicle was utilized to detect the level of physiological stress experienced by drivers in different scenarios.

Research data revealed that many drivers experience high stress when having to perform certain functions behind the wheel, such as parallel parking  Utilizing advanced technology, such as the self-park mechanism, reduced drivers’ heart rate significantly, by more than 12 beats per minute.

The nine-month research project was launched as part of a comprehensive program designed by Ford Motor Co. and MIT with the hopes of improving driver wellness, safety, and focus as a result of implementation of advanced vehicle technology.

"Ford's collaboration with MIT and NEUTC is an important pathway to the future of transportation," said Joe Coughlin, director of New England University Transportation Center. "This study, which yielded significant results, showed ways we can use new technology to improve well-being and performance behind the wheel."

The most significant results were exhibited in drivers using the Active Park Assist technology in Lincoln MKS test vehicles because parallel parking induced the highest stress in drivers. The Cross Traffic Alert system also reduced a significant amount of perceived stress in drivers backing out of parking spaces. Interesting enough, testing revealed that drivers were actually more likely to stop and yield appropriately to approaching traffic when the Cross-Traffic Alert system was turned on.

Record high levels of stress are more common today than ever, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index; many people who were surveyed in their 30s to mid 50s reported experiencing less well being than ever before.

Coughlin stated, "The fact is that middle-aged Americans are at the highest point of stress and unfortunately at the lowest point of well-being in their entire life span." He also said, "The volume, velocity, and the complexity of today's lifestyle is causing individuals to report an increase in stress and a decrease in enjoyment behind the wheel."

Ford Motor Company has been attempting for years to help reduce consumer’s stress by understanding the relationship between driving performance and stressors.

For the past seven years, Ford has been actively collaborating with MIT's NEUTC to understand the correlation between stressors and driving performance and according to Ford News.com: “identify technological advancements that both mitigate stress and create a more enjoyable experience.” As usual, Ford is on the cutting edge of designing new automotive features that appeal to today’s buyer.


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