Details of a new smart ‘no hands’ cruise control that uses facial recognition technology to make sure that the driver is paying attention are reported to have been revealed in correspondence between The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and auto manufacturer General Motors Company (GM).
Drive With No Hands On The Wheel
A letter from the NHTSA to GM is reported to have outlined the main details of the news Super Cruise system. The details of the system were not due to be officially unveiled until early 2017.
Unlike current cruise controls which require the driver’s hands to be on the wheel at all times, when the new GM Super Cruise feature is activated it will enable the car to be driven in cruise control mode without the driver’s hands on the steering wheel.
Regulated By Facial Recognition
The semi-autonomous Super Cruise feature is the very latest technological development that is implementing GM’s public plans to allow drivers on highways to let the vehicle take over driving itself.
The Super Cruise feature will use facial recognition to check that the driver is still alert and in control of the situation when their hands are not on the steering wheel. If the advanced software detects that the driver is not paying attention (e.g. falling asleep), the system will engage a number of safety measures. These measures will include:
- A series of alerts/alarms to get the driver’s attention. These are reported to include a red light, a vibrating seat, and the playing of a recorded message to the driver.
- Attempts to communicate with the driver (on the assumption of e.g. a medical emergency) using GM’s OnStar (human) driver assistance.
- If the driver doesn’t take over after the alerts, the car will be slowed down (safely) and the hazard lights will go on.
- If there is no response from the driver the vehicle will be stopped.
Presumably, these safety measures will all be activated and will take place in short time frame.
Regulated By The Road Conditions
The Super Cruise system will of course also take account of the conditions outside of the car and if it detects excessive twists and bends in the road, it will hand control back to the driver.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
This is another example of how advanced security-based technology and biometrics such as facial recognition is moving into the mainstream. It’s a move towards autonomous features in cars (think of the recent Uber driverless car trial and the autonomous public vehicles tests in Milton Keynes)
Many transport modes are now asking us to place more of our trust in technology. If you are a frequent business car traveller, you may already use a cruise control and you may be excited by this move to the next generation.
Critics could say that whereas the complete autonomous vehicles in Milton Keynes could reduce traffic to the city centre, semi-autonomous features in individual vehicles may bring few benefits to anyone other than the driver / owner. It also remains to be seen if they provide real safety benefits or whether in fact they increase risks to other drivers.