Interior car sensors to keep eye on self-driving passengers
Mon 1 Aug 2016
Researchers have developed a new type of on-board camera system for autonomous driving which can recognise the number and size of people inside a vehicle, and where they are focusing their attention.
The team, based at the Fraunhofer Institute, explained in a report that with the introduction of self-driving cars drivers could become negligent, with their vehicles able to steer and brake automatically. This ability to sit back and relax places extra demand on assistance systems to be able to respond.
The report notes that current sensors for autonomous mobility typically analyse the car’s exterior environment, but little is available to monitor the interior. Now, in collaboration with research units at Volkswagen, Bosch and Visteon, the scientists are working on a project named ‘Intelligent Car Interior’ or InCarIn.
‘We are expanding sensor technology to the entire interior,’ noted Michael Voit, group manager at the Fraunhofer’s Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation. ‘Using depth-perception cameras, we capture the vehicle’s interior, identify the number of people, their size and their posture. From this we can deduce their activities,’ he added.
Frederik Diederichs, scientist and project manager at Fraunhofer’s Institute for Industrial Engineering further commented that the sensors would also allow the system to estimate how long the driver would need to take back full control of the car following a period of autonomous driving. He continued that this interior information could allow air-bags to recognise and better respond to different passenger positions and body sizes.
While the software can now detect people and their limbs and trace their movements, it is still learning how to recognise what they are doing. ‘One challenge is to reliably identify the objects people are using. If one considers that in principle, any object could find its way into the vehicle, we must somehow limit the number of detectable possibilities. We therefore set basic parameters and tell the computer where the sun visor and glove compartment are, for example,’ said Voit.
The system will next be integrated into the Volkswagen Multivan to assess the results before rolling out to other vehicle systems over the next five to ten years.