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Jaguar monitors brain waves to confirm driver alertness

26 Jun 2015  | Christoph Hammerschmidt

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In the same context the company is assessing how a vehicle could monitor the well-being of the driver using a medical-grade sensor embedded in the seat of a Jaguar XJ. The sensor, originally developed for use in hospitals, has been adapted for in-car use and detects vibrations from the driver's heartbeat and breathing. "As we develop more autonomous driving technologies, there will be instances when the autonomous car needs to hand control back to the driver," added Epple. "To do this safely the car will need to know if the driver is alert and well enough to take over. So our research team is looking at the potential for a range of driver monitoring technologies to give the car enough information to support this decision. If the car detects severe health issues or a lack of alertness, the car could take steps to ensure the driver is focussed enough on the driving task to take over."

The company also said it is working on new technologies that increase the speed and efficiency of the interaction between the driver and the infotainment screen. The aim is to reduce driver distraction by minimising the amount of time the driver's eyes are on the screen. A prototype device called Predictive Infotainment Screen uses cameras embedded in the car to track the driver's hand movements. This enables the system to predict which button the driver intends to press, allowing successful button selection to take place in mid-air: The driver thus can activate or control electronic functions without actually touching the screen itself. In user trials. JLR has found that this increases the speed of button selection by 22 per cent and therefore reduces the amount of time the driver is looking at the screen with their eyes off the road.

As if these would not be enough futuristic features, JLR also is developing mid-air haptic feedback to the driver if the button has been selected successfully. The technology uses ultrasonics to create a touch sensation in mid-air without the skin needing to be in contact with any surface. The sensations could include a 'tap' on your finger or a 'tingling' on the user's fingertips. As touch provides an immediate response to the brain, there will be no need for the driver to glance at the screen for visual confirmation that would help keep their gaze on the road ahead.

Haptics could also be used to communicate with the driver through the accelerator pedal to increase the speed of response and to ensure the correct action is taken. To create these sensations in the accelerator pedal, an actuator sits at the top of the pedal arm and allows for vibrations or pulses to be passed through to the foot of the driver. The technology also uses a torque motor that can create resistance in the pedal feel. This resistance could be used to notify the driver that they are pushing the accelerator through a speed limit. Alternatively, if you were crawling along in traffic a timely warning through the accelerator could prevent you bumping into the car in front.

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