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New Sensor Technology Can Read Eyes


1.The Project
Photo credit: Bruce King / Flickr

In addition to smartphones using technology to track eyes while scrolling, car manufacturers are planning to use this innovative technology to improve drivers’ attention. Volvo is presently doing research into the in-car driver monitoring, aimed at improving safety along with letting cars getting to know its drivers better. Collaborating with the Gothenburg’s Chalmers University of Technology, Volvo is conducting tests with sensors that can recognize whether a driver is inattentive or tired.

A few things are monitored: using dashboard-mounted sensors, head position, angle and where the drivers are looking. These safety systems can actually detect the driver’s state and adjust the vehicle accordingly. Plans to be able to equip these systems with the ability to wake up a driver who has fallen asleep at the wheel are also underway.

The Project

Project leader Per Landfors is heading the team. It’s all part of Volvo’s Vision 2020 safety goal of preventing injuries and fatalities due to drivers falling asleep or a lack of attention. The plan is to integrate this new sensor technology that reads eyes with adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and lane keep assist. If everything goes as planned, this new technology in cars will reach the public by 2017.

How It Works

This new technology bathes the driver in infrared light. Although undetectable by drivers, these infrared sensors actually pick up the driver’s eye movements and positions. The driver is alerted with a beep. Even if drivers are arguing with another passenger or adjusting the radio, the system will take notice and send out an alert.

Further Projections for Sensor Technology in Cars

It’s projected that this advanced technology will also be able to recognize the driver. With this technology, drivers can look forward to having the seat, wheel and mirrors adjusted automatically to their liking upon recognition. It takes driving to a whole new level in the 21st century.

Statistics on Driver Fatigue and Accidents

The British Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reports that driver fatigue accounts for up to 20 percent of car accidents. In addition, one quarter of serious accidents and fatalities are due to driver fatigue. It’s estimated that 71,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths are due to driver fatigue. Mercedes-Benz completed its own research in Germany and discovered that 25 percent of fatal collisions are due to driver fatigue. Without a doubt, eye sensor technology in cars will impact safety and help save lives.

Leading car manufactures in the United States, Europe and Japan are all planning to introduce this new technology is the near future. Just keep in mind that like all new features in cars, it’s likely to be seen in the luxury car market or high-end cars first.

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