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UNH Researchers to Embark on 'Self-Driving Office' Study

Courtesy Andrew Kun

The University of New Hampshire will lead a major study of how self-driving cars could help workers be more productive while on the road.

Andrew Kun teaches electrical engineering at UNH.

"I suspect, not that far into the future, we will have decent automated vehicles that will actually allow us to do non-driving tasks for extended periods of time,” he says.

That technology might let drivers relinquish control for 10 or 30 minutes at a time, letting the driver know before they need to resume control.

Kun will work with researchers at Harvard, Wellesley and the Universities of Washington and Wisconsin to study how to turn those self-driving cars into mobile offices.

They got $2 million from the National Science Foundation’s “Future of Work” initiative to do the four-year study. It’ll test out speech commands, augmented reality and physical controls that could ease the transition in and out of driving.

“I think a key question here, which really interests us, is: What sort of tasks are OK and what sort of tasks are not, and also what sort of support do you need?” Kun says.

He says they might be able to make checking email or taking notes on an audiobook safe – but probably not sleeping.

The study will involve simulators and road tests – with the person trying to get work done in the passenger’s seat, and a human at the wheel, just in case.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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