Falling asleep at the wheel can have have deadly consequences, but a driver who’s too distracted can be just as dangerous. So Harman has developed an in-car monitoring system that tracks the dilation of the driver’s pupils to determine how overloaded and distracted their brain might be.
The system is considerably easier to install in a vehicle than other monitors which require sensors in the seats, or biometric sensors in the steering wheel dependent on a driver properly holding it it. All that’s needed to monitor the driver’s pupils is a rear-facing camera, and a proprietary software algorithm developed by Harman.
When a driver’s pupils dilate, it’s an indication of a “high cognitive load and mental multitasking” which is another way of saying they’re paying attention to a lot of things going on around them, and additional distractions could be too much to handle. In response, Harman’s system will automatically adjust and minimize the user interfaces in the vehicle, and will temporarily put mobile communication devices in a do-not-disturb mode.
The system will also step up any driver-assist features in the car, putting them in a sort of ‘high alert’ mode to be on the look out for hazards on the road ahead or problems the driver might otherwise miss while they’re overly distracted. It’s kind of like having a backseat driver, but without the know-it-all condescending tone.