Tired or distracted drivers put themselves and others at risk. Harman wants to protect them from mistakes in the future with a sophisticated system.
Time for a break? Drowsiness warning devices with the coffee cup symbol are standard on many new cars and are now even mandatory on newly developed cars, but it rarely works in practice. Reason enough for auto parts supplier Harman to try one better. Most drivers know the subsidiary of the Korean group Samsung primarily from their audio brands such as Harman/Kardon, JBL or Bowers & Wilkins. Now Americans want to make driving safer, more enjoyable and more convenient with Ready Care – with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) that knows the driver inside out.
Big brother on board: artificial intelligence monitors the driver
To this end, Ready Care obtains significantly more information from the driver’s camera footage that is already available, as required for semi-autonomous assistance systems, than was previously the case. Powerful hardware including infrared cameras measure driver stress. Self-learning software for this has been developed by neuroscientists and doctors.
The result is a glimpse into the consciousness of the person behind the wheel: does he feel physically ill, is he simply tired, is he thinking intensely about something that has nothing to do with the route he is driving? All these influences reduce vigilance and increase the risk of accidents.
Big brother on board: the system will reduce the temperature and the volume of the music
“We can determine whether the driver is just looking or seeing,” explains Anil Hariharakrishnan, director of product engineering. Based on eye movements, reaction time and other parameters, it is recognized whether the overall system of the driver and the vehicle is in the green zone.
If not, a whole phalanx of measures is ready. A proven way to increase well-being and alertness is to lower the indoor temperature by one to two degrees. Or ventilating the driver’s seat. If Ready Care detects emotional stress, it can adjust the ambient lighting, lower the volume of the sound system, or choose music that fits the situation. And when in doubt, the navigation system will suggest a less stressful route. All together should lead to more attentive and relaxed driving, but of course it can’t permanently improve a tired pilot.
Big brother on board: The pulse is constantly monitored
In particular, Harman sees continuous heart rate monitoring as a game changer – either through a smart watch connected to a system like the Apple Watch (which also detects accidents) or using an infrared camera. This can be used, for example, to determine whether the person behind the wheel is anxious. Does the warning light annoy him? Are electric car drivers afraid of being stuck with an empty battery? Here on board, Big Brother intervenes and suggests another stop or loading option. One can also imagine: After scientists in the US discovered a formula that can predict cardiac arrhythmias about five minutes in advance, Ready Care could warn the affected or alert emergency services immediately.
How accurate Harman’s measurements are is shown by a simulated test drive around San Francisco, during which memory training tasks are to be solved. The measurement curves per second show how the concentration drops to a dangerous minimum.
Big Brother on board: Data stays in the car
Harman engineers can also tell how experienced or inexperienced a person is behind the wheel by the course of the turn. Experienced pilots tend to balance attention after a while, while novices focus on thinking – with negative consequences for safety. Passengers in the car see their mental and physical state on the display in the form of graphics, which are colored between green (relaxed) and red (stressed, tired) according to their state.
The system is constantly learning through artificial intelligence and develops personalized programs for each individual user. Customer engineering manager Marcus Futterlieb talks about “full understanding of the driver” in this context, but also promises: “This data does not leave the car.”
However, the big question remains whether it is possible to check drivers in this way. The answer could be soon: Ready Care is fully developed and ready for series production, and the first automakers could install it in six to twelve months. (With material from SP-X)