Seeing Machines Driver Monitoring Systems Watch the Driver

The term “self-driving cars” compels us to think about the Flying Ford Anglia in Harry Potter, or the futuristic spaceship pods in the “Jetsons.” But while we are light years away from cars that actually fly through the sky, we are getting closer to our cars being smart, savvy and, at least partially, autonomous.

Both Google and Tesla predict that driverless cars will be a reality in five or six years, and California has already passed legislation that allows for such vehicles to begin operating in the state.

But a variety of safety and legal implications accompany the evolution of driver-assisted and self-driving cars, and some organizations have predicted a much longer timeline for their implementation.

Regardless, the pace of innovation is quickening. One key advancement takes the focus off of the vehicle, its systems and the roadway, and turns the technology inward to the driver.

Seeing Machines is an Australian company that has developed a camera system and accompanying software to monitor drivers. The system watches the vehicle’s operator to determine if and when that person is getting drowsy, distracted or just plain not watching the road.

This is a common problem. The Anti-Snoozer app won AT&T’s Developer Summit Hackathon earlier this year. Using Intel Edison and Intel RealSense technology, the app uses facial recognition to determine if a driver is getting drowsy.

In collaboration with Intel and Jaguar Land Rover, Seeing Machines implemented one of their driver monitoring systems into a Jaguar F-type for display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year.

“We’ve collaborated on a number of projects and we started talking to Intel’s automotive group…to do something really cool for CES,” said Seeing Machines vice president Nick Langdale-Smith.

They all met to brainstorm at Jaguar Land Rover’s new Portland, Oregon, research center, and six months later their prototype was ready.

The resulting convertible Jaguar has a steering-wheel-mounted camera that can “see” where the driver is looking — even if he or she is wearing sunglasses. The camera and software determines if a person is getting drowsy by monitoring eyelids. It can detect the slow, progressive listing of the head to one side, which often means the driver is falling asleep.

With driver distraction leading to over 3,000 deaths and 400,000 injuries in 2012, and 21 percent of all fatal car crashes between 2009 and 2013 involving a drowsy driver, inward-facing systems that monitor the driver are not only welcomed, but finally possible with today’s technology.

When the software is married with external monitoring systems available today in many newer cars, there’s instant blind spot monitoring or collision detection.

“We integrated our driver monitoring system into a touch screen,” said Langdale-Smith. “If the driver monitoring system measures that the driver is looking at it instead of the road and the system detects a traffic situation, the In-vehicle Infotainment (IVI) will display a warning message.”

The Jaguar F-type project required the skills of each of the three partner companies, according to Matt Jones, a senior technical specialist at Jaguar Land Rover.

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