Your car is spying on you.

A metallic grey family car in front of a big country house and rolling lawn

Car manufacturers have been introducing safety enhancements in their vehicles for years. Now, a leading car maker is conducting research into how your car can help you to keep safe – by keeping an eye on you.

Volvo is currently researching new driver sensors in order to create cars that get to know their drivers. They hope that through systems that can recognise and distinguish whether a driver is tired or inattentive, the car of the future can become even safer. Keep reading to find out why your car may end up helping you to drive safely…

Car will keep an eye on how much attention you’re paying

Volvo are currently developing a system that aims to keep an eye on the driver – including technology that detects closed eyes or what the driver is looking at.

By placing a sensor on the dashboard to monitor aspects such as in which direction the driver is looking, how open their eyes are, as well as their head position and angle, it is possible to develop precise safety systems that detect the driver’s state and are able to adjust the car accordingly.

“This will enable the driver to be able to rely a bit more on their car, and know that it will help them when needed,” explains Per Landfors, engineer at Volvo Cars and project leader for driver support functions.

The technology will also ensure that the car does not stray out of the lane or get too close to the car in front when the driver is not paying attention. It will also be able to wake a driver who is falling asleep.

“Since the car is able to detect if a driver is not paying attention, safety systems can be adapted more effectively. For example, the car’s support systems can be activated later on if the driver is focused, and earlier if the driver’s attention is directed elsewhere,” Per Landfors explains.

How the driver sensor system works

The new technology is based on a sensor mounted on the dashboard in front of the driver. Small LEDs illuminate the driver with infrared light, which is then monitored by the sensor. Infrared light is just outside the wavelengths that the human eye can see, which means that the person behind the wheel doesn’t notice it at all.

As well as monitoring how much attention the driver is paying to the road, sensors are also opening up other possibilities. By monitoring eye movements, the car would be able to adjust both interior and exterior lighting to follow the direction in which the driver is looking. The car would also be able to adjust seat settings, for instance, simply by recognising the person sitting behind the wheel.

“This could be done by the sensor measuring between different points on the face to identify the driver, for example. At the same time, however, it is essential to remember than the car doesn’t save any pictures and nor does it have a driver surveillance function,” Per Landfors clarifies.

The analysis of the driver’s state, known as Driver State Estimation, in which driver sensors play an important role, is a field that may be key to self-driving cars in the future. The car will need to be able to determine for itself whether the driver is capable of taking control when the conditions for driving autonomously are no longer present.

 

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