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Driver monitoring and smart auto biometrics draw lawsuit, IPO millions

Driver monitoring and smart auto biometrics draw lawsuit, IPO millions

A new class action lawsuit has accused automaker Subaru of violating an Illinois biometric data privacy law. Subaru autos with the DriverFocus distracted driving crash prevention system scans the faces of drivers without explicit written consent, the suit alleges. The lawsuit comes as research and development efforts are being focused on using biometric data to control cars and offer new types of in-cabin entertainment and information services.

The suit, filed in Chicago, Illinois, alleges that Subaru’s DriverFocus system scans and stores the facial geometry of up to five drivers, and that the Subaru provides no information on how the data is collected, stored, and used to its customers. The lack of written permission to use data from customers is claimed to be a violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) law, which was enacted in 2008.

While the law has been on the books for some time, it has taken time for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) to grow in popularity. ADAS is a term used to describe any system that assists with navigation, braking, or acceleration while you are driving your vehicle. ADAS can include capabilities such as: lane departure warning systems, adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance assist system, emergency braking assist system, pedestrian detection and blind spot monitors. The current market offers a wide variety of ADAS options from different brands such as Tesla or Mercedes-Benz among others which have been designed to work in tandem with one another or alongside other features such as automatic emergency braking.

In the case of Subaru, the suit notes that the automaker started gathering and using biometric data in certain models in 2019. Like other automakers, the system uses infrared sensors but Subaru scans, captures, and stores biometric identifiers — the face scan, in this case — of five different drivers and adjusts features of the car like mirrors and seats based on which driver it detects.

The suit raises interesting questions about the need for privacy and security of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). ADAS technologies use sensors to detect objects around a vehicle and warn drivers of potential collisions. As these systems become more common, it is important to ensure that the data they collect is protected from hackers who could use it to gain access to a vehicle or its occupants. Privacy concerns are also raised by the increasing use of cameras and other sensors in vehicles, which could be used to track drivers or passengers’ movements.

While automakers are taking steps to ensure that the data collected by these systems is protected, the market for ADAS systems and more advanced autonomous driving technology could be impacted by security breaches.

Ceva sensor hub meets two safety requirements

There are a number of regulatory standards around security for automotive systems. For instance, Ceva, Inc., a provider of wireless connectivity and smart sensing technologies, recently announced that its SensPro sensor hub DSP has achieved compliance with two different Automotive Safety Integrity Level (ASIL) requirements for fault tolerance. Ceva’s technology is used to process data from multiple sensors, including cameras, radar and LIDAR to aid in autonomous navigation and ADAS systems. Ensuring data integrity of hundreds of components in a vehicle will be needed to ensure compliance with automotive safety requirements.

Still, if biometric data is being transmitted off the vehicle and into a cloud storage system, whose rules and regulations apply becomes a bit less clear. Illinois’s law has been on the books for years, but newer regulations in California as well as GDPR compliance in Europe make for a murky legal landscape for biometric systems in cars.

Other recent developments show why addressing biometric data will become increasingly critical.

In terms of new capabilities, both individual developers and academic researchers are working on technology that will allow cars to be controlled with hand and face gestures. An recent open source project uses inexpensive hardware from Raspberry Pi and computer vision to enable hand gestures to steer and stop a car. No word on what a middle figure gesture triggers (the horn, perhaps?). Academic researchers at Florida Polytechnic University’s Advanced Mobility Institute have taken delivery of a new vehicle that has a drive-by-wire system and can use facial recognition to steer the vehicle.

Cipia raises $22M in IPO

Of course, there is significant revenue at stake, too. Companies like Cipia, an AI computer vision in-cabin automotive solutions provider, are betting on a growing use of ADAS systems. The company just raised $22 million as part of the company’s initial public offering (IPO). Cipia will trade on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) under the symbol CPIA.

Earlier this year, Smart Eye, a longtime supplier of DAS systems for auto safety, acquired a startup called Affectiva to add capabilities for in-cabin ‘sensing’ of human activity. The deal was priced at $73.5m for the shares of the Boston, MA-based startup.

One of Affectiva’s core services was around targeting ads based on viewer emotions read by facial expressions. Those services could eventually be used in a vehicle. That is where facial recognition will also come into play as an authentication system for in-vehicle payments, itself expected to be a fast-growing market.

A new study from Juniper Research has found that the global transaction volume of in-vehicle payments will exceed 4.7 billion by 2026, up from just 87 million in 2021. In-vehicle payments are those where payments are made via vehicle systems, without requiring the use of a smartphone to process the transaction.

The report suggests that vehicle fueling will be the most common use case for in-car payments over the next 5 years, accounting for around 48 percent of total in-vehicle payment transactions by volume. However, additional use cases such as coffee shop and fast-food pick-up payments could also be enabled by biometric systems, including voice recognition.

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