In today's ever connected and busy world, it's very easy to become distracted whilst driving. There's a plethora of distractions ranging from applying make-up and eating to texting a friend or checking Facebook; studies show that, in America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using their mobile phone or other electronic devices at any given daylight moment.
General Motors have now announced that they will be trying to combat this problem with the world's first production cars to use technology that can gauge whether the driver is distracted or not. The technology is to be supplied through an agreement between technology company 'Seeing Machines' and safety-goods maker 'Takata'; with a view to supply GM with tracking devices for up to 500,000 vehicles.
The device works by measuring the rotation of the drivers head and, through the use of special algorithms, can determine whether or not the driver is paying enough attention to important aspects of driving e.g. – the road ahead or the rear-view mirror. The cameras identify features of the drivers face and take note of things such as the frequency of eyelid blinks; this is then imposed on a three-dimensional map of the car's interior, allowing the system to know where a driver is looking with an accuracy of one degree.
Seeing Machines are currently investing in technology that will be able to go much deeper than just where the driver is looking however; they are currently looking at devices that will be able to combine the gathered facial information with vital signs such as blood alcohol levels and heart rate - stopping the car from activating should the driver be over the legal limit.
The facial recognition facility would have many uses within the car and could even be used to help prevent vehicle theft – being able to prevent the car from moving in the event of a break-in. Combined with buttons on the steering wheel we could even see cars offering features that a driver can select by just looking at them.
General Motors have said they cannot comment on their future plans and how the technology will be utilised going forward. The technology marks another step into the upcoming era of 'connected cars' in which cars are to become more connected with not just the driver but also the road and other vehicles.