The development of self-driving cars significantly relies on the tracking of the surrounding activities of cars.
This effort utilizes various technologies like digital mapping for navigation and laser-based sensors for tracking other vehicles.
All that may soon change, as the industry appears to be shifting its focus to technologies that sense the activities taking place inside the vehicle as opposed to outside.
The initial objective of the recent efforts is to monitor the drive’s alertness in a bid to help lower the number of car accidents.
Affectiva, a Boston-based startup, is one of the companies that has been exploring this new idea and trying to push it to life.
According to Rena el Kaliouby, the company’s CEO and co-founder, all Affectiva’s technologies and devices are increasingly becoming perceptual and conversational.
Affectiva, a spinout of MIT Media Lab, has been creating products and technologies designed for sensing people’s emotions since 2009.
The company has been able to facilitate its operations through the financing of over $26 million from investors like Horizon Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers.
With the public launch of Affectiva Automotive AI, the interest in its technology from automotive startups, vehicle supplies, and automakers is bound to increase.
The new software product utilizes artificial technology to measure the cognitive and emotional states of all vehicle occupants in real time.
Although Affectiva does not make the microphones and camera installed in the cars, they help to feed the software with the necessary data.
According to Affectiva, the new software can measure vocal expressions of laughter, anger and excitement, facial expressions including surprise, anger and joy and signs of drowsiness such as blink rates, eye closure and yawning.
Rena el Kaliouby said that the first application of the Affectiva Automotive AI would be checking for drowsy or distracted drivers, which are two common cause of accidents.
In fact, she emphasized that an in-cabin sensing system to check on driver alertness would become as equally vital as seat belts, especially with the increased launch of more semi-autonomous cars.
Once the software determines that the driver is distracted or drowsy, it may trigger some type of warning. In extreme cases, the car could be programmed to either call for help or park itself.
Kalibouy said during the public launch that Affectiva already has several car companies as its paying customers.
Furthermore, the company boasts a partnership with Renovo, a California-based software developer for autonomous car fleets and Autoliv, a Swedish supplier of vehicle safety products.
Affectiva hopes to shift its in-vehicle sensing software to boost the riding experience, especially after autonomous vehicles become universal.
For instance, it could use the software to alert a vehicle’s computer to adjust the driving style, slow the car down or break upon determining that people’s vocal cues or facial expressions are becoming uncomfortable.
With the vehicle slowly turning into an entertainment center, Affectiva’s technology could be used to automatically provide occupants with music, videos or any other content based on their moods.
Kalibouy also added that the Affectiva Autonomous AI could also enhance the interactions between passengers and in-vehicle virtual assistants.