Developments to Watch
A VIRTUAL GAUNTLET OF HIGHWAY HAZARDS
To answer thorny questions about driving safely, the University of Iowa's Center for Computer-aided Design has developed a souped-up virtual highway. Get behind the wheel on this strip of tar, and you face a variety of road dangers from ice patches to rear-end collisions, complete with squealing tires and roaring engines. The system is more realistic than others because the software incorporates more variables--including staged collisions, different vehicle models, and varying weather. Since the system runs on a Night Hawk real-time computer made by Harris Computer Systems' Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) division, it reacts instantly to the driver's moves.
The roadway will be well traveled: The Centers for Disease Control is funding a study of the driving behavior of Alzheimer's patients. Allergan Medical Optics in Irvine, Calif., wants to know how well patients drive when they are wearing its intraocular lens. And the Federal Highway Administration is evaluating a design for an automated highway.EDITED BY EMILY T. SMITH