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Biometric vehicle cabin monitoring promises safer occupants

Biometric vehicle cabin monitoring promises safer occupants

A new report on the future of technology embedded in the driver and passenger seats of automobiles suggests biometrics will be widely used not only for identification, but keeping motorists safe. A similar point is made by cybersecurity experts in a recent interview, although they raise the prospect that wearables could fulfil the same role. An acquisition has been announced in the market for supplying biometric health monitoring technology, meanwhile.

From a technical standpoint, there are two types of biometrics: physical (or physiological) and behavioral. You can read our explainer here for a more in-depth definition of and differences between the two.

Automotive cabins, a technology deployment area still very much in development, can track biometrics via sensors built into the vehicle for a variety of applications.

For instance, many ADAS solutions (which typically work through facial recognition) check drivers’ expressions to ensure they are aware. But other sensors can be integrated within car seats, including ones to detect driving style by tracking how drivers move their legs to brake and accelerate.

According to a recent article by MUO, the future of biometric car seats is multimodal and will integrate heart rate and temperature sensors in the steering wheel and piezoelectric sensors in the seat belt to monitor breath rates, among other things.

“​​​​​​Combine all of these features with infrared cameras on the dashboard that detects pupil dilation and facial features, and it’s easy to imagine a world where our vehicles have more real-time insight into our health than our doctors,” writes Suzanne Cardello.

Harman acquires Caaresys

Following the acquisition, Caaresys will provide Harman with vehicle passenger monitoring systems powered by contactless, low-emission radar and biometric technologies.

The move comes roughly three years after Caaresys partnered with SMK Electronics. Since then, the company has partnered with various car manufacturers, delivering its cabin monitoring solution that features vital signs sensing, passenger localization, and child presence detection (CPD).

The acquisition was reported by Calcalist, who interviewed Caaresys’ founders. According to the tech publication, Caaresys will now bolster Harman’s automotive product offerings, supporting the firm’s Digital Cockpit and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) solutions.

Caaresys’ non-intrusive sensing system is a small radio frequency (RF) radar that can be integrated anywhere in a vehicle cabin. The device can detect seat occupancy state and monitor several biometric signals of passengers, including respiration rate, heart rate, and heart rate variability.

Experts discuss biometrics’ in-car health monitoring

Case in point, among the many developments of biometrics in the automotive field is also using the technology for in-car health monitoring.

Digital car community TU-Automotive recently talked with experts in the field, who expressed conflicting opinions.

“Today, we have technology we could not imagine being a part of the average person’s daily life a generation or two ago,” Jennifer Tisdale, CEO of cyber-security company Grimm, tells TU-Automotive.

“It is not a big leap to imagine a scenario where technology could achieve medical diagnosis or at least medical alerts notifying passengers to obtain a medical exam.”

On the other hand, Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at research firm Guidehouse Insights, said he believes there is no consumer desire for such solutions yet.

“I don’t think consumers are yet demanding such technologies, but at least driver monitor systems will become more ubiquitous in the next few years.”

According to TU-Automotive, further challenges related to adopting in-car health monitoring solutions are privacy and data protection, especially considering consumer medical data is highly sensitive.

“So, while vehicle-native healthcare monitoring is a fine idea that could have real potential the closer we get to autonomy […] there are numerous roadblocks in its way just now,” concludes the post.

“The car as a doctor discovering early signs of health distress may be a comforting thought but for the foreseeable future it’s probably not going to become any kind of reality.”

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