Jaguar Land Rover has outlined a range of technology research projects that are being developed to reduce the number of collisions and casualties caused by drivers who are stressed, distracted and not concentrating.
Jaguar Land Rover says its ‘Sixth Sense’ projects utilise “advanced technology from sports, medicine and aerospace” to monitor the driver’s heart rate, respiration and levels of brain activity to identify driver stress, fatigue and lack of concentration.
The UK-based research team is also looking at innovations that would reduce the amount of time the driver’s eyes are off the road while driving, and how to communicate with the driver via pulses and vibrations through the accelerator pedal.
Dr Wolfgang Epple, Jaguar Land Rover director of research and technology, said: "We believe some of the technologies currently being used in aerospace and medicine could help improve road safety and enhance the driving experience.
“The car is becoming more intelligent and more able to utilise cutting-edge sensors. These research projects are investigating how we could exploit this for the benefit of our customers and other road users.
"One key piece of new research is to see how we could measure brainwaves to monitor if the driver is alert and concentrating on driving. Even if the eyes are on the road, a lack of concentration or a daydream will mean the driver isn’t paying attention to the driving task. They may miss a warning icon or sound, or be less aware of other road users so we are looking at how we could identify this and prevent it causing an accident."
The basis of Jaguar Land Rover’s ‘Mind Sense’ research is to see if a car could effectively read the brainwaves that indicate a driver is beginning to daydream, or feeling sleepy, while driving. The human brain continually generates four or more distinct brainwaves at different frequencies. By continually monitoring which type of brainwave is dominant, an on-board computer could potentially assess whether a driver is focused, daydreaming, sleepy, or distracted.
Dr Epple said: "If brain activity indicates a daydream or poor concentration, then the steering wheel or pedals could vibrate to raise the driver’s awareness and re-engage them with driving.
"If Mind Sense does not detect a surge in brain activity following the car displaying a warning icon or sound, then it could display it again, or communicate with the driver in a different way, to ensure the driver is made aware of a potential hazard."
Jaguar Land Rover is also assessing how a vehicle could monitor the well-being of the driver using a medical-grade sensor embedded in the seat of a car. The sensor, which was originally developed for use in hospitals, has been adapted for in-car use and detects vibrations from the driver’s heart beat and breathing.
Dr Epple added: "As we develop more autonomous driving technologies, there will be instances when the autonomous car needs to hand control back to the driver.
"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 simply how alert the driver is, then the car could take steps to ensure the driver is focussed enough on the driving task to take over."