Volvo, in their endless pursuit to create the safest vehicles possible, has been working on technology which will sense the attention that a driver is giving to the road. With modern technology already providing a host of distractions for the modern driver, it is about time that technology, ironically, works to solve the issue.
A series of sensors are being developed which will monitor variables like the position and angle of the heads of drivers, as well as how open their eyes are. In theory, this would not only detect drivers who are falling asleep, but will also alert drivers who are not paying attention to other cars on the road. The systems will even work together with Volvo's current driver assistance aids, intervening if a crash is likely.
"Since the car is able to detect if a driver is not paying attention, safety systems can be adapted more effectively," said Per Landfors, project leader and engineer for Volvo driver support functions. "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."
Volvo already offers technology like Lane Keep, Collision warning with auto brake, and Adaptive Cruise Control, which can be adapted to work with the new sensors.
The sensors which read the face of drivers is led by a series of LEDs mounted in the dashboard. The LEDs beam infrared light toward the driver, but the driver sees nothing because the infrared is sent at a wavelength invisible to the human eyes. Volvo calls their system "driver state estimation," and is just one of their multi-step plan to eventually build autonomous cars.
The systems are even being developed to recognize exactly where the driver is looking, which could provide a level of automation from the car. Volvo says this could be used to adjust lighting to highlight where the driver is looking, and will even have recognition features to automatically adjust to the preferences of a specific driver. At the same time, Volvo is adamant that the system will not be intrusive in any way.
"This could be done by the sensor measuring 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 nor does it have a driver surveillance function," said Landfors.
With a number of companies looking to further their research towards autonomous cars by around 2020, Volvo has certainly demonstrated their dedication to research. Their systems from recent years have not only been some of the most advanced, but also some of the most helpful for driver safety. Volvo has said that their goal for 2020 is to have deaths and serious injuries eliminated with the help of their developing technologies.