By Frank Hersey

Developments in automotive biometrics from automakers and specialist systems providers continue to bring new functions to car journeys. While many improve driving safety, automotive systems can now detect whether a driver is from a car’s approved list based on facial recognition and can detect children left behind in a vehicle, even if wrapped in a blanket out of sight. Cerence is rolling out new technologies for driver convenience and personalization.

LG Electronics files patent for system recognizing driver, passengers and gestures

LG Electronics has filed to patent its system to use facial and gesture recognition for driver and passengers to link to autonomous driving, or other applications such as augmented reality, drones and 5G communications, with patent offices in the U.S. and South Korea, reports Business Korea.

The patent for the multi-camera biometric authentication method was filed in August 2019 and has recently been disclosed. The setup would also monitor drivers to determine whether they are drowsy and could even detect whether a driver needs to be woken due to an incident while the car is in fully autonomous driving mode.

LG states that the camera system would reduce the cost of installing biometric systems in automobiles.

Further patents were filed at the same time, for a processor that matches a driver with a list of drivers whose photos have been registered into the system.

Cerence launches intelligent in-car assistant and two-wheeler mobility applications

Mobility pioneer Cerence has launched Cerence Co-Pilot, an intelligent in-car assistant to monitor situations both outside and inside vehicles to proactively initiate actions rather than wait for drivers to give an order with a wake-word.

The multi-modal system, for connected electric and autonomous vehicles, integrates with sensors throughout the vehicles and works as the central processing point of the car to analyze the car’s data along with voice, gaze, gesture and touch input from the driver.

For example, connecting to weather data would allow the AI-based system to adjust the vehicle for upcoming changes to driving conditions. It learns routines and so can suggest ordering and paying for a coffee when a mile away from the driver’s favorite coffee shop.

“Voice-powered interaction has become ubiquitous in our daily lives, but it’s time that we expand upon its capabilities and chart the road ahead – a fully multi-modal, multi-sensor, AI-based experience,” comments Stefan Ortmanns, CEO, Cerence.

“By bringing a new level of intelligence to the voice assistant, we not only enhance comfort and convenience, but also improve safety through proactive and reactive capabilities.”

Cerence has recently been selected by domestic Vietnamese car company VinFast to integrate its voice biometrics. It has also partnered with Japanese automotive software developer Micware to pool their expertise in two-wheeler vehicles to develop voice-powered assistants for Japanese manufacturers.

The partners will build on the Cerence Ride platform for two-wheelers to enable riders to use voice commands through a helmet communication system connected to the vehicles digital speedometer or a smartphone. Global growth in e-bikes is expected to have a knock-on demand for connectivity solutions.

“The integration of Micware’s navigation technologies and Cerence’s industry-leading voice interaction technologies will open up new possibilities for two-wheeler OEMs and their riders, and we are very excited about the collaboration,” says Takuma Segawa, director of Micware.

Mitsubishi Electric concept car has inbuilt biometrics, detects left-behind children

Mitsubishi Electric is to unveil a concept car with facial recognition and monitoring of metrics such as pulse and respiration rates at the upcoming CES 2022 in January.

The EMIRAIxS Drive will have near-infrared cameras and radio-wave sensors installed to monitor drivers and passengers, as well as an ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) for controlling aspects such as headlights.

The biometric system can detect driver drowsiness or sudden sickness based on facial expression along with monitoring driver vitals. Face-tracking and image processing can detect slight changes to skin tone due to heart rate changes. The system can then suggest the driver stop to rest or even activate an emergency parking function.

The near-infrared cameras also determine the presence and size of passengers. Radio-wave sensors detect children in the cameras’ blindspots, such as down in the footwell or wrapped in blankets and can determine whether a child has been left behind in the vehicle and “notifies the driver and others nearby,” according a statement from Mitsubishi which includes diagrams of the processes.

Car manufacturers installing biometrics systems will have to take into account local laws. There is a class action lawsuit underway in Illinois  which alleges that the automaker Subaru violated state biometric privacy data law with its DriverFocus scanning drivers’ faces without explicit written consent.

Cipia, the maker of computer vision in-cabin automotive solutions, has just raised $22 million as part of its IPO.