Ford Research and Innovation labs are seeking to combine sensor signals for a driver-assist system to estimate workload on drivers based on road and traffic conditions. They are also using biometric feedback from the sensors in steering wheels, seat belts and seats to get an overall model of stress levels. The estimation of driver workload could be used to manage communications within a vehicle by helping minimise distractions for motorists during busy situations so they can stay focused on what they’re doing – driving.
Data from driver-assist sensors can be used to determine how much external demand and workload is on a driver at any time. Additionally, Ford’s health and wellness research continues to develop a biometric steering wheel, seat belt and seat that can monitor a driver’s condition and help add an even more certain estimate of their state of being.
The workload estimator is an algorithm that uses real-time data from sensors, like cameras and radar, and combines it with input from how the driver uses the steering wheel, throttle and brakes. This would mean an intelligent system can manage in-car communications based on the driving situation. For example, it could determine that it’s not a very good time for incoming calls or texts, so the car would apply the “Do Not Distrurb” feature already available with MyFord Touch.
The researchers have built a biometric seating buck to test several different sensors and gather data about how motorists respond to different inputs for a behaviour model. The system adds sensors the rim and spokes of the steering wheel to get more detailed information. The metal pads are like those on stair climbers and treadmills, which measure the heart rate of the user.
The steering wheel is also fitted with infrared sensors that monitor the motorist’s palms and face to determine changes in temperature. Another infrared sensor measures the temperature in the car to give a baseline to compare the temperature changes of the driver. The last sensor is fitted in the seat belt to measure the motorist’s breathing rate.
Ford Research and Innovation senior technical leader Jeff Greenberg says that Ford Motor Company has been a leader in delivering solutions to simplify the user interface and for in-car communications. Now they are researching ways to use the intelligence in a vehicle to help drivers more. Control inputs, biometric information like the breathing and pulse of a driver, sensors and road conditions can all be combined to create a workload estimation to help manage certain functions in demanding situations, he explained.
Ford Research and Innovation manager of vehicle design and infotronics Gary Strumolo says they are monitoring driver biometrics and using existing data from the vehicle to estimate demand on the motorist. This is to research ways to get an even better understanding of driver stress levels. Health or biometric information can help them tailor the experience for the driver behind the wheel. These features, though still in the research phase, show a great opportunity for the data already being recorded by the vehicle to be used and applied with an intelligent decision-making system that will simplify the driving experience, he added.
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