Chicago 2013: Watch the Road!

Texting, tapping in a phone number, entering a navigation destination, changing the radio station, and eating breakfast are good ways to describe how too many people drive a car these days. The Pandora's box of electronic distractions can't be closed. Continental AG says complete banishment of electronics inside your car is not feasible. While a big part of the problem, they also can provide the solution and maybe even get you to put down your egg sandwich, the automotive tire and supply giant contends. Continental unveiled its Driver Focus Vehicle system at the Chicago Auto Show.

Here's how it works: A camera pointed toward the front of the car determines whether the Driver Focus Vehicle is approaching another vehicle or obstacle at a relatively high closing speed. There's a black-and-white infrared camera just above the steering column that watches both eyes of the driver. If the two cameras tell the system that the driver isn't paying attention to the road as the car approaches the obstacle, 360-degree LED light strips atop the interior doors and the front interior cowl direct the driver's eyes back to the windshield. Continental calls this lighting a "comet." It's the same kind of fast moving, bright lighting that provides extra visual flash on NFL stadium jumbotrons.

The system "defines how technology can shift from being blamed for the distraction to being the solution," says Continental's North American president, Jeff Klei.

In case this isn't enough to direct your attention back to where it belongs, the Driver Focus Vehicle system can even determine the airbag system deployment, says Continental's project engineer, Zach Bolton. He began work on the system just last August. "It would take three to five years" to get the technology in showrooms, he says, and several auto executives attending the Chicago show expressed interest in buying the system.

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