Jaguar Land Rover aims to make roads safer with ‘Sixth Sense’ projects

Article by Andrew Christian, on June 19, 2015

Drivers’ stress levels and brainwaves – these are just two of the factors that Jaguar Land Rover ‘Sixth Sense’ research projects are looking at as it aims to lessen the incidence of accidents as a result of distracted drivers. The automaker recently unveiled a lineup of new road safety technology research projects that make use of cutting-edge technology from the fields of sports, medicine and aerospace to monitor the driver’s heart rate, respiration and brain activity levels to detect fatigue, stress, and lack of concentration.

This team, which is based in the UK, is also developing innovations that will cut how much time the driver’s eyes are focused on the road and that will utilize pulses and vibrations via the accelerator pedal to communicate with the driver. The automaker’s Mind Sense research was started to determine if a car may read the brainwaves that tell whether a driver has started to daydream or is sleepy.

The brain is on different frequencies as it produces at least four distinctive brainwaves. If an on-board computer is able to continuously monitor the dominant brainwave, it may be able to assess if a driver is focused, sleep, distracted, or daydreaming. It wouldn’t be practical to utilize the most common way to monitor brainwaves in the car as it will be hard to do that with sensors attached to a headband.

Jaguar Land Rover has started to study a method that NASA already uses to improve a pilot’s concentration skills. Brainwaves can be monitored via the hands using sensors that have been carefully placed in the steering wheel. Since the sensors are far from the driver’s head, software is installed to intensify the signal and remove any background “noise.”

There are user trials being conducted now to gather more data on the various brainwaves detected via the steering wheel sensors. The automaker has brought in the top neuroscientists in the world to verify these results. What the automaker wants to find out is how well a medical-grade sensor placed in the seat of a Jaguar XJ could monitor the driver’s well-being. Initially developed for hospitals, this sensor that detects breathing and heart beats was modified to be used in the car.

By having this monitor in place, it becomes easy to assess stress levels as well as to detect the onset of sudden and serious illness. To lessen stress, the car could then make adjustments on the audio settings, climate control, and mood lighting. The automaker is presently developing new technologies to improve the efficiency and speed of the communication between the driver and the infotainment screen.

The goal is to minimize the possibility of the driver getting distracted by reducing the time that the driver is looking at the screen. The cameras on the Predictive Infotainment Screen prototype are embedded in the car to track the driver’s hand movements. As a result, the system could predict what button the driver wants to press.

The driver doesn’t have to touch the screen since button selection can be accomplished mid-air. In the user trials, button selection is faster by 22%. More importantly, this lowers the amount of time that the driver’s eyes are off the road and looking into the screen. Haptic feedback is used by the system. With the use of ultrasonics, the driver gets a sensation mid-air to indicate that button selection has been done successfully.

The possible sensations include a “tingling” or a “tap” on the fingertips. Since touch is immediate, the driver won’t need to look at the screen to get visual confirmation. Haptics may be used to interact with the driver via the accelerator pedal to raise the speed of response and to guarantee that the right action is chosen. For these sensations to be created in the accelerator pedal, there is an actuator on the top of the pedal arm.

This makes vibrations or pulses pass through to the driver’s foot. In addition, a torque motor can be used so that there’s resistance in the pedal feel. This is useful in informing the driver that the accelerator has been pushed through the speed limit. It also gives a warning if you’re about to bump into the car in front as your drive through heavy traffic.

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