Cars already automatically lock doors when they sense motion and turn on warning lights if they detect engine problems. But they are about to get a lot smarter.

A research team at Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, NM) is designing cars capable of analyzing human behavior. Future models may, for example, deduce from your driving pattern that youíre tiring, or, during critical situations, tell your cell phone to hold an incoming call so you wonít be distracted. The project started as an experiment with military vehicles and now Sandia is partnering with automobile manufacturers to bring the technology to the commercial market.

The researchers developed sophisticated algorithms using existing data from the car's computer such as brake pedal force, acceleration, and steering wheel angle. And they employed specialized sensors including a pressure-sensitive chair and an ultrasonic head tracking system to measure driver posture.

"If our algorithms can identify dangerous situations before they happen and alert drivers to them, we will help save lives," said Kevin Dixon, the principal investigator.

Get the full story here .