UTC Mission: to advance transportation expertise and technology through research

Tools & Methods

The following tools have been developed by the New England UTC and MIT AgeLab in collaboration with its sponsors. Core skills have been developed in simulation; data reduction of large data sets; collection, syncing and analysis of psycho-physiological data; cross-team learning; and survey research.


The “AwareCar” is an instrumented vehicle built for evaluating new models and methods of monitoring driver state though physiology, visual attention, and driving performance in the field. The vehicle includes sensors to record data about the current state of the operating environment. A custom time synchronized data acquisition system allows for: data capture for post processing, real-time monitoring and evaluation of driver performance. These tools can be used to trigger driver feedback systems that are under development. Sensing systems currently implemented include: six video cameras for environment and operator monitoring, measures of vehicle telemetry (CAN BUS link e.g. velocity, wheel rates etc., lane position, radar), driver physiology (e.g. heart rate, skin conductance, respiration rate, electromyography) and eye tracking. The vehicle has been used in a variety of studies to assess: hands free cellular phone usage, surrogate measures of visual and cognitive distraction, driver health and wellness as well as functional methods of assessing changes in workload, arousal and stress with age.

Delayed Digit Recall (n-back) Task

The Delayed Digit Recall n-back task is a calibration method developed by the MIT AgeLab that systematically increases the cognitive demand placed on an individual. The lab has used this task in a series of driver workload and distraction studies.

Paying attention to the road is not a binary operation; drivers can give varying degrees of attention to the task at hand. To simulate this, 0, 1 and 2-back tasks model increasing levels of cognitive load, which in turn result in decreased attention to scanning the roadway. This is intended to model in an objective manner what an individual may experience while, for example, having a phone conversation – even if the phone call is hands-free.

Miss Daisy

“Miss Daisy” is a fixed-base medium-fidelity driving simulator used for the evaluation of in-vehicle technology, cognitive distraction, disease and medication effects and simulator validity. The simulator is constructed with the full cab of a 2001 Volkswagen Beetle and an 8’ projection screen functions using STISIM Drive™ for graphics display and model development. Sensors connected to the original equipment manufacturer accelerator, brake and steering wheel provide input to the simulation system. Feedback to the driver is provided through visual, auditory and kinetic channels. The simulator, instrumented with equipment for physiology recording and eye tracking, also provides a variety of mounting and interface options for device prototyping. Programmed simulations include highway, rural, urban and desert driving. Studies have shown that behavior patterns measured in the driving simulator correspond with driving in the real world driving and driver self-report.

Miss Rosie

“Miss Rosie” is a Volkswagen Beetle instrumented with equipment to evaluate driver’s physical capacity for vehicle operation. Vehicle cameras monitor changes in spinal mobility and operator positioning. While force sensors monitor the strength required for vehicle maneuvering. Experiments have been conducted to assess limitations in driver physical capacity due to natural aging, disease, medications or other conditions.