A wedding anniversary was turned upside down when Julie Eberly was headed towards the beach with her husband, Ryan Eberly (Sederstrom). Not seeing the car behind him, Ryan switched lanes and accidentally pushed another driver, Dejywan Floyd, off the road (“Arrest Made in Lumberton”). Upon getting back on the highway, an angry Floyd fired gunshots, hitting the Eberly’s car and Julie through the passenger window (Sederstrom). While Ryan was not injured during the altercation, Julie died after being admitted into UNC Southeastern Hospital. 6 children lost their mother that day due to an act of murder and road rage, which could have been prevented had Floyd’s emotions been regulated. Stress is a frequent cause of road rage that scientists have been trying to help reduce with Artificial Intelligence (AI) (“The Fast and the Furious”). A team of scientists discovered in 2018 that guided breathing exercises can modulate drivers’ stress and that muscle tension can be sensed on a steering wheel.
Pablo Paredes, a psychology and behavioral sciences professor at Stanford University, conducted an experiment alongside his colleagues on 24 participants (Paredes et al., “Just Breathe” 10). Each participant had their electrodermal activity, Breathing Rate (BR), and Heart Rate Variability (HRV) measured while driving in a stimulated environment “for six minutes: two minutes without any intervention, followed by two minutes with a breathing guidance modality…and finalizing with two minutes with no breathing treatment” (10). Both driving groups were exposed to haptic and audio-based breathing exercises. The experiment found that haptic and voice-based stimuli reduced breathing rate and increased HRV, which have been linked to lowered stress (Paredes et al., “Just Breathe” 18; Campos). Practicing these breathing techniques may curb road rage by “reduc[ing] its frequency and intensity” while teaching people to manage their anger (“The Fast and the Furious”).
In a separate experiment, Paredes and his team tested their new sensor by exposing participants to either a “stressor or soothing intervention coupled with arousing or soothing music…while driving” in a stimulated environment (Paredes et al, “Fast & Furious” 4). Participants’ “stress was measured through self-reports and physiological measurements,” including HRV and Electrodermal Activity (EDA) (5). Results of the sensor’s algorithm were compared against these metrics, and it successfully detected mental stress “through the muscle tension in the arm only using the angular displacement of the steering wheel” (9). This discovery was implemented in the Nissan Leaf to reduce a driver’s stress.
The Nissan Leaf is an electric vehicle that implements Paredes’ and his team’s findings (Purtill). It has a chatbot integrated into the car’s audio system, which is triggered by muscle tension based on hand movement on the steering wheel. When activated, an AI voice offers to walk the driver through a breathing exercise. After voicing consent, the driver’s seat vibrates as the bot guides the driver to breathe rhythmically, asking questions along the way, such as what is stressing the driver, how significant this stressor is, and when this problem may be resolved.
Paredes and his colleagues demonstrated that guided breathing exercises may assist in decreasing stress and that stress signals can be detected with a steering wheel. The Nissan Leaf is a practical application of these findings, and more vehicles could integrate them in the future. Roads might become safer once these technologies become widely available to the public, leading to reduced traffic fatalities and more trust among drivers. Despite the difficulty of changing human behavior, AI might make this process easier by intervening during stressful commutes and helping individuals control their road rage. The less drivers turn red on the road, the greener the world might become.
“Arrest Made in Lumberton Road Rage Killing of Julie Eberly, a Mother of 6 on Her Way to the Beach.” ABC, 1 Apr. 2021, www.abc11.com/lumberton-road-rage-julie-eberly-arrest-made-dejywan-floyd/10467505/.
Campos, Marcelo. “Heart Rate Variability: A New Way to Track Well-Being.” Harvard Health Publishing, 22 Oct. 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/heart-rate-variability-new-way-track-well-2017112212789.
Paredes, Pablo, et al. “Fast & Furious: Detecting Stress with a Car Steering Wheel.” Association for Computing Machinery, 2018, no. 665, doi.org/10.1145/3173574.3174239.
Paredes, Pablo, et al. “Just Breathe: In-Car Interventions for Guided Slow Breathing.” Association for Computing Machinery, vol. 2, no. 1, 2018, doi.org/10.1145/3191760.
Purtill, Corinne. “Artificial Intelligence Is Here to Calm Your Road Rage.” Time, 26 Aug. 2020, time.com/5881216/artificial-intelligence-road-rage/.
Sederstrom, Jill. “‘My Whole World Is Turned Upside Down’: Man Mourns Death of Wife Killed in Alleged Road Rage Shooting While on Anniversary Trip.” Oxygen, 31 Mar. 2021, www.oxygen.com/crime-news/julie-eberly-dies-in-nc-road-rage-shooting-during-anniversary-trip
“The Fast and the Furious.” American Psychological Association, 2014, www.apa.org/topics/anger/road-rage.