From safety to comfort: we want to do more with technology
New safety features are being promoted by consumer-protection groups and mandated by governments to avoid and mitigate accidents. More than 10% of these are caused by human error like driver distraction, fatigue and inattention. New vehicles that include driver monitoring systems will be required for Euro CAP 5* rating in 2020, as well as required by European legislation by 2023 to improve safety and, for autonomous modes, ensure drivers are ready to take back control. As part of Faurecia’s Cockpit of the Future team, I’m involved in coordinating the different sensor technologies that can be used for safety, and much more, as part of the car’s onboard intelligence.
Infrared cameras offer a rich range of possibilities for monitoring a driver in any lighting condition – for example tracking changes in face temperature to detect drowsiness and even measure heart rate. Our solution links the camera to actuators in the seat that give a haptic vibration to gently warn the driver. Faurecia has also looked to maximize the camera’s capabilities to personalize the on-board experience. We’ve already developed a smart vent that follows and tracks head position to blow air directly to where the driver or occupant is sitting. At CES we demonstrated the use of facial recognition to automatically adjust seat position, climate control, multimedia settings and HMI preferences. It’s an interesting added-value solution for OEMs looking to enhance user experience and we’re currently developing this for the market launch of a new premium brand in 2021.
Radar sensors provide a powerful technology for child presence detection. In the US, on average 37 children die from heatstroke each year as a result of being left in cars. RF waves can travel through seats to detect a body mass, check if it is breathing and even distinguish from its size whether it is human (adult/child) or animal. Linking this to Faurecia’s cockpit domain controller, the vehicle can then alert the car owner or emergency services if a baby has been left unattended. We’ve explored how to build on this best-in-class safety device with additional features to reduce the cost and effectiveness of occupant detection measures. Using the data from the radar we can calculate the weight and type of occupant. This can eliminate the need for a separate and expensive seat sensor that checks that occupants are wearing their seat belt. By monitoring heart and breath rates via the sensor too, the vehicle could even share crucial information following an accident to alert rescue services about how many people are inside and where they are located.
We are is also actively using biometric sensors to monitor biological signals including heart and breathing rates, skin conductivity, blood pressure and heart rate variability. This last one is good indicator of the mood, stress, alertness or fatigue of drivers. Faurecia is working with a customer to integrate PPG sensors, similar to those in smart watches, for monitoring the health and condition of drivers. Gas sensors are another key area of interest for improving in-car air quality. Teams have extensively researched the right combination of sensors and algorithms that can evaluate the composition of gases and odours in the cabin, including alcohol levels.
It’s important to measure the different indicators of safety, comfort and wellbeing in all conditions with the right level of accuracy, which can be hard to achieve depending on the lighting, thermal conditions and when people are moving around. Faurecia is fusing the data from all connected devices - cameras and sensors - to gain a comprehensive and accurate picture anytime, anywhere and in any situation.
We can go more quickly because we are working as part of an ecosystem with specialist technology providers and partners. This agile approach enables us to move from proof of concept to market launch within a matter of months. Teams test and evaluate solutions in Faurecia’s connected car lab developed with Accenture. Into this we can integrate hardware and software, test on the road and adjust different parameters to innovate in realtime. Customers come to Faurecia to do more with technologies and together we’re creating the cockpit of the future.