18 January, 2023

Interior Sensing in the Future

10 years ago, driver monitoring system(s) were a premium feature only found in a few select car models. Now, updated legislation and regulations have made technology that detect driver distraction and drowsiness an essential safety feature in newer vehicles. The speed of this development points to a future where in-vehicle sensors and intelligent features will play an important role in mobility–and where the implementation of Interior Sensing systems in cars are the next natural evolution. 

Building on Existing Technology for Fast and Cost-Effective Implementation

For car manufacturers, the threshold to installing Interior Sensing features in their cars is much lower than it was for installing driver monitoring systems. Expanding on the cameras, other sensors and machine learning-based algorithms already deployed in vehicles for DMS, new algorithms and features can be added to already active systems. By building on this existing technology, Interior Sensing functions can be added in a way that is both fast and cost effective for car manufacturers. 

This also allows automakers to customize the Interior Sensing features they decide to make available in their cars. As the number of car manufacturers keeps growing, differentiation becomes increasingly important for OEMs. Simply put, a successful car manufacturer needs to offer something that makes them stand out from the rest. By handpicking the Interior Sensing features and capabilities put into their cars, automakers can establish a strong and unique brand – while making sure they are meeting current and future regulatory and rating requirements. 

The Future is Multimodal 

Human behavior is complex and multi-faceted. We can only tell so much about a person’s mental state by focusing on isolated aspects of their behavior and physiological state To gain a deeper understanding of human behavior, Interior Sensing systems need to be developed with a multimodal approach. 

When humans interact with each other, we connect multiple signals, such as facial expressions, tone of voice or body posture, to assess what other people are thinking, feeling and doing. In the same way, multimodal Interior Sensing technology will enable our future cars to combine signals from different sensors to assess what is happening to people in a vehicle. 

Detect Drunk Driving Through Interior Sensing

Every year, 1.3 million people die in road crashes around the world. More than 20% of these fatalities are estimated to be alcohol related. For as long as cars have existed, drunk driving has been a complex problem in need of comprehensive solutions. From ignition interlocks to roadside alcohol tests – different strategies for mitigating drunk driving have been deployed for over a century. Yet none of them have managed to effectively prevent a still very large number of lives being lost to accidents caused by intoxicated driving. 

Intoxication detection is the next frontier in automotive safety systems, and a highly requested technology with automotive manufacturers. Today, critical research is being conducted by government bodies, the automotive industry, academia, and technology companies, like Smart Eye, to determine effective ways to detect drunk driving. 

By combining the output from multiple sensors and fusing the data, Interior Sensing systems could offer a comprehensive assessment of whether a driver is fit to drive or not. The research on using in-cabin systems to detect alcohol intoxication is still ongoing . But the potential of in-vehicle sensors and machine-learning based algorithms to prevent road crashes caused by drunk driving carries a lot of hope that the problem of people driving while intoxicated can finally be solved. 

Sudden Illness

The potential of multimodal Interior Sensing technology for identifying driver impairment does not stop with alcohol intoxication detection. Sudden illness in drivers may be a less frequently discussed issue than drunk driving, but is nevertheless a common cause of accidents all over the world. 

In fact, a study by the Vehicle and Traffic Safety Centre at Chalmers estimates that sudden illness accounts for around 10% of all fatal crashes in Sweden. Through technology that effectively detects early signs of sudden illness, the vehicle can intervene before a dangerous situation occurs. For example, today’s Interior Sensing systems already have early-stage capabilities for detecting heart rate variability. This lets the system recognize a medical event before it interferes with a person’s driving. 

As these capabilities develop and improve, Interior Sensing technology can help prevent accidents caused by sudden illness, while instead making sure the driver gets medical attention.

How Interior Sensing Paves the Way for Safe Autonomous Vehicles 

As the automotive industry’s race towards increasing autonomy in cars picks up speed, an additional layer of importance is added to Interior Sensing technology. When cars become autonomous enough to allow drivers to take their hands off their wheels, Interior Sensing goes from important to absolutely essential. 

It will likely be many years before it’s safe for drivers to completely take their eyes and minds off the road. As long as the most advanced cars are classified as semi autonomous, human drivers will still be primarily responsible for the driving task. 

In all semi-autonomous vehicles, there will be situations when a human driver is required to take control of the vehicle. This is sometimes referred to as the “hand-off challenge”. To ensure safety when these situations occur, the car needs to be able to effectively analyze the driver’s state even in situations when a human driver is not necessary. 

If the vehicle detects signs that the driver is distracted, or unfit to drive in any way, it will decide it is safest for the autopilot to remain in control of the vehicle. On the other hand, if the vehicle determines that the driver is actively engaged, it can safely hand back control to the human driver. Even in these next-generation vehicles, understanding the driver’s actions and mental state is the most effective way to ensure the safety and the people in the car. 

Increasing autonomy in vehicles also gives the driver more freedom to participate in the car environment, taking full advantage of wellness and entertainment features offered by Interior Sensing systems.

As the automotive industry’s race towards increasing autonomy in cars picks up speed, an additional layer of importance is added to Interior Sensing technology. When cars become autonomous enough to allow drivers to take their hands off their wheels, Interior Sensing goes from important to absolutely essential.

Want to learn more about interior sensing? Download our eBook on Interior Sensing: The Next Frontier in Improving Road Safety and the Mobility Experience

Written by Fanny Lyrheden
Back to top