DaimlerChrysler demonstrated an onboard electronics system designed to keep the driver’s focus on the road during critical driving situations. The system, called Driver Advocate™, was developed by Motorola and installed in a Chrysler Town & Country minivan. According to the company, Driver Advocate incorporates a user-friendly three-button mechanism installed on the steering wheel to enable the driver to control the in-flow of information from cell phones, onboard navigation systems, and warning messages or diagnostic messages appearing on the EVIC. The Driver Advocate system is expandable to incorporate future telematics applications. "This new project demonstrates the benefits of our extended enterprise here at Chrysler Group. With our technology partners at Motorola, we are demonstrating an innovative system that addresses the important issue of driver distraction,” said Bernard I. Robertson, senior vice president, Engineering Technologies and Regulatory Affairs. DaimlerChrysler and Motorola previously collaborated on the Chrysler 300M IT-Edition, also involving researchers and graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That vehicle served as a mobile research lab for the development of electronic systems to assess and address driver distraction and stress. "As part of its commitment to provide technologial solutions to the problem of distracted driving and make our highways safer, Motorola is developing a low-cost, easy-to-use system for the automotive industry," said Jacqui Dedo, vice president of market operations for Motorola Automotive. "This is the first public demonstration of Driver Advocate, and Motorola and DaimlerChrysler have worked together to further explore how technology can be applied to manage the flow of information in the car. Motorola is committed to working with its customers to make the car more intuitive and to simplify the overall driving experience." According to the company, Driver Advocate is designed to work in the demanding automotive environment: It utilizes much of the existing hardware and vehicle dynamics information already available in the vehicle to keep costs down; it is simple to understand and operate; and it is designed to be durable, reliable and efficient. The company says the system adds a simple steering angle sensor and several grip sensors in the steering wheel to determine driver hand/knee position, similar to the system implemented in the 300M IT-Edition. Information about the driver’s stress and attention levels - measured by driver actions and vehicle motion information - is processed in the system workload management center to determine whether messages should be displayed to the driver or whether non-safety-critical information should be temporarily intercepted while the driver focuses on traffic and road conditions. Drivers access the system through a three-button interface on the steering wheel and the minivan’s overhead Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) console. There is one button for each managed system: incoming cell phone calls, navigation system and vehicle diagnostic information normally displayed on the EVIC. Each switch can be illuminated to let the driver know a message has been suppressed. The driver must then press the switch, when they feel the time is appropriate, to display the suppressed information. If the computer determines the situation does not warrant message suppression, the information is displayed normally. The driver determines the appropriate time to display messages. For example, drivers may choose to suppress the navigation system until reaching unfamiliar parts of a route. “People are spending more time in their automobiles at the same time that electronics is expanding the amount of information we can make available to the driver and passengers. The system we’ve installed in our Chrysler minivan provides a simple, straightforward answer to managing the amount of information flowing to the driver at critical times,” said Thomas S. Moore, vice president and head of DaimlerChrysler’s Liberty & Technical Affairs advanced research group. According to the company, ongoing research with the Driver Advocate system installed in the Town & Country minivan will continue to refine the system’s ability to identify conditions in which information should be temporarily intercepted, focusing on the most common traffic situations that require intervention. “We will continue to work with Motorola to fine-tune the system to identify those driving situations where the Driver Advocate is most useful. That will involve both on-road work in our minivan and simulator work, combining the strengths of both companies,” said Stephen J. Buckley, manager of electrical product innovation at DaimlerChrysler's Liberty & Technical Affairs research group.