Well, it’s not actually new, and it’s not actually mine to keep. But there is an extensive, multi-year U.S. Department of Transportation safety pilot research study being conducted in our area. It’s pretty neat. And, being somewhat of a vehicle safety nut, I find it interesting and signed up to participate when the study was first announced.
There are three levels of participation. The least-involved level (which we currently have on our main vehicle) includes a small data collection device that involves no interaction from the driver. The middle level (which my boss has) includes the data collection device and also emits warning signals when another study vehicle is too close. The third level involves driving a study-provided car equipped with five cameras that collect data about driving conditions, proximity of other vehicles, driver reaction, etc.
I was notified today that they want me to participate in the third level. Besides being excited to participate further in the study (I happen to work in the research environment at the university, and was interested in research even before I started working there), I am really looking forward to driving one of their vehicles for 5-6 months. It won’t be a luxury vehicle, but it’ll certainly be nicer than the 2003 Ford Focus station wagon that I usually drive. (Or maybe it will be a luxury vehicle – I’m supposed to be getting a 2011 Buick Lacrosse. Not new, but nice!)
Here’s an interesting article on the study, from Wired magazine. (Though I do think their “300 vehicles” figure is wrong.)