Whether for driver identification/authentication or for monitoring of the driver or occupant’s health and comfort, expect cars of the future to more closely scrutinize your fingerprints, heart and breathing rates, irises, and pupils in the years to come. This promises to make it easier to get in and go without even the need to carry a key fob, and it could even help your car serve as a health care advocate, potentially alerting you to an impending heart problem—but it will also present privacy concerns. Many companies at 2019 CES have proposed facial recognition and fingerprint detection. To these concepts B-Secur proposes identifying people via their unique EKG traces, Harman employs pupillometry, and Faurecia proposes radar- and piezo-detection/monitoring of heart and breathing rates.
Did you know that your electrocardiogram trace is as unique to you as your fingerprint or iris? It’s identifiable at resting or racing heart rates, and for ID purposes a single heartbeat will suffice; for detecting a-fib or other heart problems, several seconds are needed. It can be sensed through the leather of a steering wheel, and in vehicles that already have capacitive-touch sensing steering wheels, no extra hardware is needed. Adding this sensor is way cheaper than adding a high-def camera for iris detection. B-Secur’s HeartKey steering-wheel sensor concept is in pre-production now for fourth-quarter 2019 production, and the company is investigating using other touchpoints—multifunction control knobs, center console, maybe even the seatbelt. You can also expect to see the tech on fitness trackers and smart wearables through partnerships with Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI), Cypress Semiconductor, and NXP Semiconductors.
Harman’s Cabin Monitoring System employs pupillometry to infer cognitive load. Apparently our pupil diameters oscillate, getting larger and smaller by tiny amounts at a rate that increases with cognitive load.
Faurecia proposes locating a small, short-range radar unit centrally in the forward area of the headliner where it can “see” all occupants. It also places micro-pressure-sensitive piezosensors in the seat. Together, these two technologies monitor occupants’ heart and breathing rates. When high rates are detected, the vehicle recommends a breathing exercise and/or dispenses calming lavender scent into the cabin. The system also warns the driver that a child is still onboard.