Hyundai-Kia engineers are working with researchers at the University of Michigan to combat “highway hypnosis“—when a driver’s brain switches to “autopilot” on long, straight roads.

“About one hour into a long drive, typically on a highway with a straightaway, you start zoning out and your reaction time slows down,” Joshua Maxwell, an ergonomics engineer at Hyundai-Kia Technical Center, told Edmunds August 26.

“Your brain goes into an auto-pilot phase.”

The Korean automakers are launching a study this September into this new form of distracted driving, with volunteer students from U of M.

The goal is to more quickly detect when drivers may have zoned out. Current drowsy-driving alerts from automakers like Mercedes-Benz use eyelid activity and head position as indicators of distraction or sleepiness, but this new research will involve measuring drivers’ brainwave activity.

Maxwell said the warning may be visual, auditory, or perhaps haptic, though they’re not ruling out the traditional coffee-cup drowsiness-alert icon used by rivals.

(Edmunds)