3D sensor system detects driver availability in autonomous cars

3D sensor system detects driver availability in autonomous cars

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

At least in the initial phase, automated driving will only be possible in certain situations, such as on motorways and multi-lane highways. If the automatic system takes over the control, the driver can lie back and turn to other activities such as reading, answering e-mails or even taking a nap. But if the driving situation changes, for example because the vehicle is approaching its destination or due to an unforeseen incident, the automatic system must either bring the vehicle to a safe stop – or it hands responsibility back to the driver. To do this, the automatic system must recognize whether the driver is capable of doing so at all.

The ZF system, which is currently under development, uses 3D cameras to monitor the interior and recognizes the position, size, and position of the occupants. Based on these parameters, it deduces the driver’s attention. The system should thus provide the input for a wide range of potential applications for safety, comfort, and automated driving.

As vehicles are increasingly equipped with automated functions, intelligently networked sensors in the interior with such a system can detect whether the driver’s hands are on the steering wheel and actively steer the vehicle and whether he is looking at the road and monitoring the vehicle. At the same time, they can determine whether the seat belts are being used properly. The system can indicate that the driver is in automated mode and trigger a warning if a potential emergency situation is detected.

Another application of such a system is safety: in the event of an unavoidable collision, it can take measures to better protect the occupants. It also makes use of existing sensors installed in the seat, which provide an indication of whether and with what force airbags and belt tensioners should be used. The camera-supported interior observation system can supplement this information in real time with the size, position and posture of the occupants, including the detection of deviating seating positions such as the lying position. All this information helps to tailor energy management to the individual occupant before or during an impact. The 3D camera can provide additional information as to whether an occupant or object is in a particular position and can thus help decide whether, in the event of an imminent collision of the vehicle, adaptive safety functions need to be used for occupants, and if so, which ones. The camera complements existing seat belt buckle sensors and visually checks that the occupant is correctly fastened. If this is not the case, a message can be issued or the system takes other measures.

Occupant sensors can also be extremely valuable if, for example, small children are left alone in the vehicle and emergencies occur due to extreme temperatures. Here, the indoor observation system can be calibrated to detect the presence of a child and trigger emergency measures: for example, an automatic call to the vehicle owner’s mobile phone, lowering the indoor temperature by opening the electric windows or the sunroof to triggering the horn and hazard warning flashers so that bystanders can provide assistance, or an emergency call to emergency services so that they can help rescue the child.

According to ZF, the interior monitoring system is expected to be ready for series production by the end of 2021.

Related articles:

ZF positions itself for autonomous driving

Centre airbag protects occupants in side impacts

System analyses in-car activities for next-gen ADAS

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