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AUTO21 Researcher Earns Prestigious German Award

Professor Steven Beauchemin equipped his own car for the initial mobile testing of the RoadLAB system.

What if your vehicle had the ability to detect driving errors and to intervene to avoid an accident? This is a scenario that an AUTO21 researcher and his team hope to someday make commonplace.

Steven Beauchemin, an AUTO21 researcher and University of Western Ontario professor, along with his colleagues were awarded the German Network of Automotive Excellence (NoAE) Innovation Award 2010 for their RoadLAB driving assistance system. The RoadLAB system competed against more than 400 submissions from 23 countries to capture this award that recognizes innovations within the automotive industry. AUTO21 is honoured to recognize the achievements of Professor  Beauchemin and his team.

RoadLAB is an innovative driving assistance system (DAS) that minimizes driver error by combining information from ocular behaviour sensors with other vehicle data being collected.  Current systems only monitor vehicular attitude and external driving conditions and do not include driving behaviour and driver intentionality as part of the analysis.  But studies indicate that ocular behaviour is a reliable predictor of physical movement. So by adding ocular behaviour sensors, the system captures eye movements, including gaze direction and blink frequency and uses that information to assess the state of the driver.

Research has shown that the use of DAS technology results in a decrease in the number of vehicle fatalities. And by relating gaze direction and environment features, RoadLAB can warn drivers when driving context is misunderstood and their actions may be inappropriate and potentially dangerous.

In recent years, Canada has seen an increasing number of deaths from injuries largely due to traffic-related incidents. According to the World Health Organization, this figure is expected to rise from 5.1 million in 1990 to 8.4 million in 2020. Equipping vehicles with the RoadLAB driving assistance system may decrease injuries, and subsequently deaths, while making the public more trusting of aspects of driving automation.

It was the simplicity of RoadLAB as a driving assistance system that attracted automotive original equipment manufacturers and industry experts during the 2010 NoAE competition. The Network of Automotive Excellence is an intercompany initiative focused on strengthening the competitiveness and future of the automotive and supplier industry. Canada participated as an official partner country for the first time in 2010 and will participate again in the 2011 competition.

Due in part to this award, the automotive industry is showing a keen interest in this project.  RoadLAB is now involved in industrial research and development in the United States and Europe. Through these collaborations, Professor Beauchemin and his research team have developed a fully functional software and hardware platform to use during testing.  This spring, testing of RoadLAB began to collect data for scientific analysis and future implementation.  RoadLAB has moved beyond Canada’s borders and global partners will aid in applied research on RoadLAB to generate data for use in the design of new safety software and hardware applications.

Photo: Heather Travis, Western News
Caption: Professor Steven Beauchemin equipped his own car for the initial mobile testing of the RoadLAB system.


AUTO21 Inc. oversees the AUTO21 Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE), Canada’s automotive research and development program. Through the AUTO21 NCE, AUTO21 Inc. has managed nearly $60 million in Government of Canada funding and another $44 million in private and public-sector investments in automotive R&D. A recent economic impact study estimated AUTO21 NCE research projects have generated more than $1.1 billion in social and economic benefits to Canada.

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