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SALT LAKE CITY -- Imagine KITT from "Knight Rider" and how it could drive itself. Engineers from the University of Utah are hoping to make that a reality with a device that can be attached to any car.
Mechanical Engineering associate professor Mark Minor says, "Just attach it to any vehicle's interface and it's able to assume driving authority with it whether it's a car or a boat or a tank."
Minor can't divulge a lot of information about the specifics yet, but he says teams from all over the school -- including psychologists -- are working to make these futuristic car parts.
"At the U, we have a fellow that's specifically looking at the effect of distractions on driving from cell phones," Minor says.
The device also would keep an eye on the driver.
"For example, if someone's talking to a child in the backseat, they're distracted," Minor says. "It would be ideal if the vehicle were able to identify these things and to help prevent accidents."
Some of the high-end cars have things that can be used to make cars more autonomous. Minor says some carmakers have added radar devices that can sense if an object is coming up too quickly and can start the brakes if the driver is distracted. Also, with the addition of Google Maps, it's not too farfetched for cars to find their own routes to the driver's destination.
However, Minor admits there are things that may take some time to become reality. For example, getting a car to recognize a red light may take some algorithms that haven't been created yet.