Standards for Virtual Reality to Help Tired Truckers Stay Alert

Working up to 50 hours a week with shifts as long as 11 hours, truckers are often fatigued on the road -- presenting a critical danger to themselves and others. A new virtual reality technology, developed with the help of standards, is allowing researchers to study trucker fatigue so that a system can be developed to prevent this all-too-common hazard.

Researchers are developing a system that can detect abnormal steering patterns due to fatigue when they first begin to occur. In order to determine these patterns, scientists asked subjects to deprive themselves of sleep. These subjects were then told to "drive" on a simulated, virtual reality course. When tired, the drivers steered right and left more frequently, in a zigzag pattern. Due to slower reflexes, the drivers started to veer off the road, and then overcorrected in the opposite direction.

The swerving steering patterns recorded from this virtual reality experiment are being used to develop a device that truckers can install in their vehicles. When the system detects swerving or hazardous behavior, it would alert the driver through an audio or visual cue. Once awakened by the alert, the driver could then pull over to a safe spot.

Standards for virtual reality have helped to promote technological developments such as the simulated driving course used in this experiment. INCITS/ISO/IEC 14478-1-1998, Information Technology - Computer Graphics and Image Processing - Presentation Environment for Multimedia Objects (PREMO) - Part 1: Fundamentals of PREMO specifies techniques for supporting interactive media applications that recognize and emphasize the interrelationships among user interfaces, multimedia applications, and multimedia information interchange. It supports a wide range of multimedia applications, including virtual reality environments. This standard, developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and adopted as an American National Standard (ANS) by the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), promotes the development of interactive technology like the virtual driving program used in the fatigue study.

INCITS/ISO/IEC 14478-4-1998, Information Technology - Computer Graphics and Image Processing - Presentation Environment for Multimedia Objects (PREMO) - Part 4 - Modelling, Rendering and Interaction Component is another standard that has contributed to the development of virtual reality technology. This standard describes the construction of, presentation of, and the interaction with multimedia information, including graphics, video, audio, and other types of presentable media. This multimedia information may also be enhanced by time aspects, as in the fatigue study where drivers interacted in real-time with virtual vehicles and highway lanes.

These standards were developed by ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee (JTC) 1, Subcommittee (SC) 24, Computer graphics, image processing and environmental data representation. INCITS, a member and accredited standards developer of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), is the ANSI-accredited Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator for JTC 1 SC 24.

Staying alert is an important way for truckers to keep themselves -- and others -- safe on the road. With advanced new programs developed with virtual reality, accidents caused by fatigue may soon be a thing of the past, ANSI stated.

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