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Omron integrating facial recognition into autonomous driving system


Japanese electronics and healthcare firm Omron is developing an autonomous driving system with facial recognition technology that monitors drivers to determine whether they are alert enough to retake control of the vehicle at a highway exit, according to a report by Forbes.

The technology would resolve issues with existing autonomous driving systems which only work on highways or expressways, and for the most part, for short bursts of approximately a minute before the driver is forced to regain control of the wheel or at least touch it.

If the driver fails to touch the steering wheel, the system will be disengaged and force the car to a halt.

Showcased at the recent CEATEC conference and exhibition in Tokyo, Omron demonstrated a hardware prototype that features an infrared camera attached to the vehicle’s dashboard which constantly monitors a driver’s eye movements and gestures.

If the driver’s blinking differs from an established pattern or his or her head bobs and drops as a result of fatigue, the system will automatically sound a buzzer alert to wake up the driver.

Similarly, whenever the driver looks away from the road, such as when using a cellphone, the facial recognition software will instantly prompt a “danger” alert noise.

In the event that the driver does not respond immediately, the system will automatically disengage the autonomous driving function if it is on. If the vehicle is in manual mode on street level, the system will slow down the vehicle and force it to stop automatically.

Omron’s system also features a seat-embedded pulse reader and a blood pressure gauge, which can be worn on the driver’s wrist.

The reader and gauge constantly monitor a driver’s vital signs, detecting unusual fluctuations in pulse or blood pressure caused by potential drowsiness or a stroke.

Omron said that these features, combined with facial recognition, will provide a greater safety net for drivers using autopilot who are exiting a highway or driving on street level roads in manual mode.

Omron is currently co-developing this three-pronged facial recognition technology with “multiple” domestic and overseas car manufacturers, according to an unnamed employee.

The company is working towards integrating these systems with next generation autopilot systems in cars by 2020.

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