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    Can Artificial Intelligence Be Used to Improve Driver Performance?

    There’s no question human intelligence outperforms artificial intelligence and will continue to do so for many years to come. But that doesn’t mean humans can’t get an assist from technologies that leverage artificial intelligence, or AI.

    In fact, AI technologies already are being used to help improve driver performance. Commercial drivers, for example, can be alerted when the AI system detects patterns associated with drowsy or distracted driving. Lytx technology also leverages advanced analytics to track potentially risky patterns of behavior such as lane departure, rolling stops, and following too closely.

    “A lot of people think of AI as this futuristic technology that’s years away from being reality,” said Stephen Krotosky, manager of applied machine learning at Lytx. “But many of us benefit from AI now, particularly in transportation, where artificial-intelligence systems are already working in the background in various ways to help people do their jobs better.”

    What is Artificial Intelligence?

    Think of AI systems as a virtual Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio’s wise advisor. Designed properly, AI technology can sift through large amounts of information in real time to help people take into account more risk factors in their environment and make better, or faster, decisions. Predictive AI systems, in particular, can help anticipate potential issues before they become catastrophic and are akin to having a sixth sense — or a clever sidekick who has seen this movie before and can tell you what’s coming next.

    Although AI systems have been in development for over a decade, scientists are just beginning to scratch the surface of what the technology can do. Researchers like Krotosky are working to develop artificial-intelligence algorithms that can help drivers navigate the complexities and distractions inherent in their profession — things such as being able to adapt to rapidly changing traffic patterns, weather delays, routing disruptions, and other issues.

    Many fear that advancements in artificial intelligence will mean fewer jobs for people. But as with any new technology, AI creates and evolves jobs even as it displaces old ones. In transportation, AI is often mentioned in the same breath as autonomous vehicles. Even in those scenarios, the need for humans in commercial vehicles will most likely persist. Their tasks, however, may evolve into something similar to that of train operators or airline pilots, as both planes and trains are able to function autonomously.

    The Future of Artificial Intelligence

    “Longer term, with autonomous vehicles, drivers will need to be ready to engage and take over, just like commercial pilots do today,” Krotosky said. “That will require the driver to be alert. So you can see the need for an artificial intelligence system, combined with machine vision, to help drivers remain vigilant. So, going forward, one of the goals would be to assess the operator’s comprehensive state, using posture, hand placement, eye gaze, and so forth to monitor engagement levels. The system can assess the driver with enough fidelity to gauge whether they are in a position to take over the controls and how long it would take them to prepare. It’s that kind of application that could be tremendously useful in a semi-autonomous or autonomous world.”

    Applications of Artificial Intelligence Systems

    Artificial-intelligence applications need not stop with driving performance, Krotosky pointed out. It also can be used to help improve ergonomics, workplace safety, and other job-related skills.

    “Imagine an artificial-intelligence system that can assess whether workers are lifting boxes correctly to minimize injuries,” he said. “Are people using ramps, or just jumping off? Are they buckled into the cherry picker? Are they wearing proper safety equipment and deploying cones properly? From driver performance to occupational safety and operational efficiency, there is an infinite number of applications.”