UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page UBC Home Page -
News Events Directories Search UBC myUBC Login
- -
UBC Public Affairs
UBC Reports
UBC Reports Extras
Goal / Circulation / Deadlines
Letters to the Editor & Opinion Pieces / Feedback
UBC Reports Archives
Media Releases
Services for Media
Services for the Community
Services for UBC Faculty & Staff
Find UBC Experts
Search Site

UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 1 | Jan. 10, 2002

Cross-campus team probes smarter cars

Closure of Massachusetts lab translates to interdisciplinary opportunity for UBC researchers

by Don Wells staff writer

A team of UBC researchers will investigate the possibilities of intelligent human-automobile interfaces thanks to a $1.4 million grant from Nissan Motor Co.

Project co-ordinator Ronald Rensink, an assistant professor in both Psychology and Computer Science, worked closely with Nissan during a six-year stint at Cambridge Basic Research, a partnership involving the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard and Nissan.

A UBC alumnus, Rensink asked Nissan to consider establishing a similar lab at UBC following the closure of the Cambridge lab last year. MIT also pitched the idea to Nissan but, according to Rensink, the company chose UBC for the overall strength of its multidisciplinary research team.

"I told them that there were some of the best people in the world doing this kind of work here," says Rensink. "Not only that, but we really work well together, which ultimately was the key to their decision to select us over MIT."

The research is motivated by the increasing complexity of driving caused by more sophisticated automobile displays as well as increasingly crowded traffic systems, Rensink explains.

As technology improves, it is becoming possible to give more information to the driver -- for example, indicating the presence of a car in the driver's blind spot, or conditions on the road ahead. But more information alone will not work, and can even be hazardous, he says.

"If too much information is presented, it will confuse rather than help the driver," says Rensink, whose research focuses on visual perception.

"The key to making driving safe and comfortable is to combine knowledge of the perceptual and cognitive systems of humans with knowledge of the driving task itself so that only the relevant information is delivered."

There are two particularly important aspects of the research, he explains.

The first is to determine the limits in human perception and cognition that will ultimately constrain the effectiveness of an interface, for example, limitations in attention.

The second is to determine the extent to which different kinds of sensory inputs -- audio, visual or touch -- can be used as effective carriers of information.

"Our strategy is to work closely with their engineers to provide them with general guidelines for the development of new interfaces," says Rensink.

"Once they have that information, they can design the actual devices."

The first half of the funding will be allocated this month to five researchers, including Rensink, Computer Science Asst. Prof. Karon MacLean, Psychology Prof. Jim Enns and assistant professors Alan Kingstone and Vince DiLollo.

The second half will be allocated in April to a wider set of researchers that may include members of the departments of Linguistics, Philosophy and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The project will be an important part of the Institute for Computing, Information and Cognitive Systems, a new UBC initiative in the multidisciplinary study of information processing systems.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

to top | UBC.ca » UBC Public Affairs

UBC Public Affairs
310 - 6251 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z1
tel 604.822.3131 | fax 604.822.2684 | e-mail public.affairs@ubc.ca

© Copyright The University of British Columbia, all rights reserved.