Berlin (dpa) – Because your eyes move faster than your arms, an
optical device may one day steer your car around sudden, sharp curves
the instant you see the danger ahead, according to a team of German
“The ultimate goal of the project is to build a device into cars
that warns the driver if he is in danger of unintentionally departing
from the lane,” says Farid I. Kandil of the Department of Psychology,
University of Muenster, Germany.
It is well-documented that when negotiating winding roads, drivers
tend to look at a specific, well-defined point on the lane marking –
referred to as the tangent point.
The German researchers have found that the further drivers can
look ahead, generally in left-hand curves, wide curves and when
leaving a curve, the less they have to look at the tangent point.
Constructing a device which registers those subtle eye movements
could reduce the danger of losing control in a curve.
The findings of the scientists are reported in a recently
published article in the Journal of Vision. In the study, six drivers
test-drove a car repeatedly through a series of 12 right- and
left-hand bends, or curves, on real roads while their eye movements
The results confirmed that when moving into a curve, drivers rely
heavily on using the tangent point before turning the steering wheel.
The findings further revealed that a driver will look at the
tangent point 80 per cent of the time when there is a shorter sight
distance, such as with sharp, right-hand curves. In open bends such
as left-hand curves, and when leaving curves, drivers spent a third
of their time looking at the end of the curve and the straight road
that comes after.
The experiments were conducted in right-hand traffic as in
continental Europe and the United States. According to the
researchers, there are many hints suggesting that the results can
also be used to predict how drivers negotiate curves in left-hand
“The system we envision will look out for upcoming curves and
retrieve information about the eye movements the driver normally
performs,” explains Kandil. “If the driver does not show his typical
pattern of eye movements upon approaching a bend, then the system
will assume that he has not seen it and will warn him in time.”
The researchers plan to conduct additional experiments, using a
prototype to determine whether the warning system provides enough
time for the driver to react properly.