Biometrics is, basically, the study of identifying people by certain characteristics or traits. The auto industry uses biometrics extensively, from developing more comfortable car seats, to deploying airbags based on if a child or adult is sitting in said seat.
Volvo’s City Safety system scans ahead of the car even if the driver’s not paying attention, and will apply the brakes to prevent accidents. Mercedes-Benz’s Attention Assist monitors the driver to see if they’re sleep, while a similar system being developed by Toyota goes further and watches to see if you’re sad or happy, because apparently sad drivers get into more accidents. And Nissan has car seats that’ll sense alcohol on your breath and even your skin. If the Nissan system detects alcohol levels over a certain amount, it will lock down the ignition while admonishing you via the audio and display systems.
Ford recently released details on its own automotive biometric system. Called the Driver Workload Estimator, Ford’s system monitors the driver’s stress levels via sensors in the car’s seat, seat belt, steering wheel, and even steering column. Depending on traffic conditions—which the system monitors via radar, cameras, and even car-to-car communication systems—the Ford Driver Workload Estimator will prep car safety systems for possible accidents to actually blocking incoming calls from smartphones as the driver struggles to navigate their vehicle safely. Such blocks are then released by Ford’s system once it senses less traffic and the driver is less stressed. States manager Gary Strumolo at Ford’s Research and Innovation department, “While these features are still in research, they show significant opportunity for us to leverage data already being captured by the vehicle and apply an intelligent decision-making system to simplify the driving experience.”
Automotive.com’s take: While we acknowledge Ford’s good intentions with the system, we can also see major privacy issues with such systems. Insurance agencies, for example, could demand such biometric information from their clients. Some drivers may have body makeups (i.e., high heart rate) that may fool the system. How does the system deal with first responders when on-call? These, and other issues, will need to be worked out.
What’s your take on the Ford Driver Workload Estimator? Do you agree with it? Disagree? As always, let us know in the comments below.