We know all about vehicles, we created them. We know how they work, what makes them go and how to fix them when they don’t. We have plans to make them bigger, better and more advanced. We have made progress from roll-down windows to satellite guided GPS all in an effort to make the driving experience better. So it’s no surprise that as we continue to develop and transform vehicles, the next step is to have vehicles know all about us.
Our facial expressions, our voice patterns, maybe even one day our personal lives, this is where the future of cars is heading, and where it already is today. Numerous car companies, including Ford and Volkswagen, have already introduced driver attention and drowsiness systems. These systems use cameras and sensors to monitor the driver’s steering habits, ability to remain within a lane and the time at the wheel.
As one can expect, now that this technology has been released, it’s already old hat. Other companies are already trying to build upon the groundwork that has been laid in an attempt to one-up their counterparts. This rivalry breeds amazing technological advances and creates a future for drivers that looks safer, smarter and more convenient than ever.
French Automaker Peugeot Citroën is already collaborating with researchers in Switzerland to detect driver emotions though a new video sensor that will monitor drivers’ faces. Volvo is also making enhancements to its existing drowsiness detection system with a sensor that relies on small LEDs to help track drivers’ facial expressions and eye movement.
Malin Persson, Volvo spokesperson commented saying. “If the driver does not wake up, [a vehicle's safety system could even ensure that it] comes to a safe stop” Malin points out that there are several ways to prod a drowsy driver back awake including sounds, vibrations, lights and even fragrances. Cars could use one or any combination of these in the future as a first step to correcting drowsy driving before making the ultimate decision to automatically stop the vehicle.
The tech game is an enticing competition to get into. Not only is it a great PR move but it’s very lucrative too. The developer of the next big thing could have manufactures eating out of their hand. This may be why we’re seeing other groups other than major international corporations getting involved and trying to teach cars to read our emotions. A team of engineering students at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada are working to develop technology that can detect and defuse road rage by using soothing music.
“Music is proven to be very helpful in calming people down,” says Dipshikha Goyal, project manager for the group. The technology relies on data from three sensors that measure the driver’s heart rate, the pressure of the driver’s grip on the steering wheel, and the driver’s facial expression. “If the [heart rate and grip] values are above the normal threshold, we trigger the camera and check if the person is actually angry,” explains Goyal.
When the car senses aggression it will automatically trigger your favorite soothing song from your smartphone playlist. The team is also looking at alternative methods for calming the aggressive driver including turning on the air conditioning, or opening the windows.
Whatever the next big thing is, it is going to make someone very rich and our roadways much safer. The future of driving is indeed bright, as long as you are not concerned with a car starting to learn a little more about what you look like and how you react to certain situations. How far is too far? Well that’s a bridge we’ll likely have to cross sooner than later. Will the car know when your bladder is too full to start a road trip? Will it dictate the route you have to take or the distance you can drive in a day? Stay tuned, because we’re likely to find out.