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Volvo Introduces Sensor Technology for Driver Monitoring

March 18, 2014

Sensor technology in vehicles may not be new, but sensor technology intended specifically for vehicle drivers is. Volvo is the latest automaker to create a new feature designed to help guarantee auto safety.

Volvo has set an ambitious safety goal called ‘Vision 2020,’ wherein no individual will be seriously injured or killed in a new vehicle from the Swedish carmaker by the year 2020. To achieve this goal, the company has been developing technology that will help ensure safety by enabling the vehicles to know their drivers a little better. This safety feature in progress is called Driver State Estimation.

Volvo is currently involved in a research project with Gothenburg’s Chalmers University of Technology that deals with in-car driver monitoring. The automaker has equipped test vehicles with smart sensors which can determine if the driver is tired or not paying attention to the road. With the help of infrared light, the sensors mounted on the dashboard will know the position and angle of the driver’s head, where the driver is looking and what he/she is looking at, and whether the eyes are closing.

Once the system detects the behavior of the driver and finds that he/she is at risk of crashing, it will take over and manipulate the vehicle. Certain functions, such as those for adaptive cruising and automatic braking, will be activated. The system can even wake the driver up if he/she falls asleep behind the wheel.

Per Landfors, Volvo engineer and driver support functions project leader, said that the technology will allow drivers to rely on their vehicle more, knowing that they will get the help they need when they need it. “Since the car is able to detect if a driver is not paying attention, safety systems can be adapted more effectively,” he added.

While the sensor technology is designed primarily for safety, its application can go beyond it. For instance, the sensors can recognize a driver through specific facial points and adjust seat position as needed.

Volvo’s Driver State Estimation may be new, but it is not the first technology of its kind. Lexus was the first automaker to come up with in-car driver monitoring in the form of its Driver Attention Monitor. There is an infrared camera situated behind the steering wheel that allows the driver to determine the location of his/her head. If the driver turns his/her head away from the road and there is a possibility of a collision, the monitor will warn the driver and apply the brakes if needed.

While the driver monitoring system is still a work in progress, Volvo has other safety features that will be coming a little bit sooner. The 2015 Volvo XC90, which will be launched at the end of 2015, is equipped with three safety features.

The first one is not particularly new—pedestrian detection. This technology will detect pedestrians and cyclists, and will apply the brakes to avoid collision. The current technology will be updated for the 2015 release to function in the dark.

The second feature monitors the edges of roads to keep the vehicle in line. If the vehicle is about to drive off the road, the system will bring it back on course.

The third is steer assist, an updated version of adaptive cruise control. This will keep the vehicle in the right lane in traffic if the driver needs to take his/her hands off the wheel and eyes off the road.

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