Volvo research leading to cars that “watch” you drive

Sensor system in development monitors when drivers become sleepy or inattentive.

0 March 19, 2014
by Design Engineering Staff

14-Mar-volvo-driver-sensors-625Long noted for the safety, if somewhat boxy quality, of its cars, Volvo announced that it is developing the next generation of safety systems for future lines. 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, Volvo researchers say it’s possible to develop precise safety systems that detect the driver’s state and are able to adjust the car accordingly. This also means that the car will ensure that it does not stray out of the lane or get too close to the car in front when the driver is not paying attention, as well as being 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,” explains Per Landfors, engineer at Volvo Cars and project leader for 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.”

Some of the current systems that can be included are Lane Keeping Aid, Collision warning with full auto brake and Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist.

The 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.

The company says it is also exploring the potential of monitoring eye movements so 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.

The technology is already installed in test vehicles. Volvo Cars is also conducting research together with partners including Chalmers University of Technology and Volvo AB to identify effective methods for detecting tiredness and inattention.

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