General Motors and Wayne State University School of Medicine will study physiological basis of driver distraction

New Research Partnership will use Advanced Brain Imaging Technology

July 17, 2002

DETROIT, Mich. - General Motors announced today a major research partnership that ultimately could identify a physiological basis for driver distraction.

GM and the Brain Imaging Research Division of the Wayne State University (WSU) School of Medicine have begun several programs in the Transportation Imaging Division of the newly established Brain and Behavior Institute in Detroit.

The programs will expand on the current joint effort to use real-time magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a safe and passive brain imaging method, along with human performance data, virtual reality simulation and safety advances in transportation communications and telematics, to better understand driver performance and potential distractions by actually watching how the brain processes tasks.

An initial grant of $100,000 to the WSU School of Medicine, through the GM Foundation, will enable advanced brain imaging technology and software from leading researchers and institutions globally to be assembled for the completion of key experiments. The grant is in addition to significant scientific and engineering collaborations between the partners. The GM-WSU School of Medicine research will take place through 2005 and may define additional partnerships.

"This research will help us understand how drivers manage distractions and interact with vehicle telematics," said Christopher C. Green, M.D., Ph.D., executive director of emerging issues in the GM Public Policy Center. "Additionally, the research can help form the basis for developing future in-vehicle telematics technology, driver training aids and other safety advances."

"The initial experiments will use functional magnetic resonance imaging during driver simulations that are real-world," said Gregory J. Moore, Ph.D., who is co-directing the GM-WSU medical school research. "The imaging technique shows the actual portions of the brain while they are being used in processing sensory information during driving tasks. That information allows researchers to see if multiple sources of sensory information are being processed and, if so, how efficiently."

Researchers also want to determine how other external factors, such as sleep deprivation; the use of caffeine, alcohol and over-the-counter medications; and even overall physical health impact a driver's brain's ability to process multiple tasks and interact with technology inside the vehicle, said Thomas W. Uhde, M.D., director of WSU's Brain and Behavior Institute and the medical school's assistant dean for neurosciences.

General Motors leads the industry in the effort to better comprehend the distracted driving issue. GM's award-winning "SenseAble driving" program is a multi-year, multi-million-dollar initiative that uses research, education and technology to address driver distraction. The program includes a public education campaign in all 173 Michigan Secretary of State offices. This education initiative has been made available to other states' department of motor vehicle offices. Learn more about "SenseAble driving" at

General Motors (NYSE: GM), the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, designs, builds and markets cars and trucks worldwide. In 2001, GM earned $1.5 billion on sales of $177.3 billion, excluding special items. It employs about 362,000 people globally.

GM also operates one of the world's largest and most successful financial services companies, GMAC, which offers automotive, mortgage and business financing and insurance services to customers worldwide. Find out more about General Motors at

With more than 1,000 medical students, WSU is among the nation's largest medical schools. Together with the WSU Physician Group, a practice organization consisting of the school's 750 clinical faculty members, the school is a leader in patient care and medical research in a number of areas including cancer, genetics, pediatrics and the neurosciences.