Bosch Helps Cars Keep an Eye on Their Passengers
To avert critical driving situations and possibly also accidents, it is planned that cars will in the future use their sensors not simply to monitor the road but also the driver and other passengers. For this purpose, Bosch has developed a new interior monitoring system featuring cameras and AI.
“If the car knows what its driver and occupants are doing, driving will become safer and more convenient,” says Harald Kroeger, a member of the Bosch board of management. The system may go into production in 2022. In that year, the EU will make safety technology that for example warns drivers of drowsiness and distraction a standard feature in new vehicles.
By keeping an eye on what is happening inside the car, it is hoped that a fundamental problem of self-driving cars will be solved. If responsibility for driving is to be transferred to the driver again following an automated drive on the freeway, say, the car needs to be sure that the driver is neither sleeping, nor reading the newspaper, nor writing e-mails on their smartphone.
“Cameras and AI will turn the vehicle into a life-saver,” Kroeger says. To achieve this, engineers have used intelligent image-processing algorithms and machine learning to teach the system to understand what the person in the driving seat is actually doing. To take the example of driver drowsiness, the system is trained using recordings of real driving situations and, on the basis of recordings of eyelid position and eye-blink rate, learns how tired the driver really is.
At the latest when cars start driving automatically, it is obvious how important it is that they understand their drivers. Once driving is automated, cars will drive along freeways without driver intervention. However, they will also have to be able to hand back control to their drivers in tricky situations such as construction zones, or when the exit ramp is drawing near. Drivers have to be able to safely take the wheel again at any time during the automated driving phase.
The new Bosch system also keeps its eye non all the other passengers, whether next to or behind the driver. For this purpose, a camera mounted above or below the rear-view mirror monitors the entire passenger compartment. It notices whether children on the rear seats have carelessly unfastened their seat belts, or if someone sitting in the back is leaning too far forward, at an angle, or with their feet up.
The interior monitoring system also prevents the passenger-seat airbag from being deployed if a baby’s carrycot is on the seat. In an emergency, it also can alert the emergency services. As the Hot Cars Act currently being debated in the United States shows, legislators are interested in technology solutions to address this challenge.