- Nonprofit research center SRI International has announced artificial intelligence (AI) technology that will allow cars to detect drivers’ emotions and respond appropriately. The technology will be incorporated into a Toyota Motor Corporation concept car introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show.
- SRI’s Emotional AI technology uses visual cues like gestures and expressions to monitor a driver's emotional and physical state. The factors that the car will monitor include gaze direction, head nodding, object of attention and actions like talking on a cell phone.
- The car will modify behavior in response to certain emotional states. If a driver appears drowsy, for example, the car can play loud sounds, blow cold air or even direct the driver to immediately pull over.
SRI’s vision AI system joins a number of projects seeking to build driver behavior into AI and autonomous driving systems.
Kia Motors in January showed off the Real-time Emotion Adaptive Driving (R.E.A.D.) System, which can adjust features in the cabin space like lighting and climate in response to a driver's emotional state. Aptiv also announced plans to partner with MIT Media Lab spin-off Affectiva to incorporate the latter's human perception artificial intelligence system to better understand the moods of occupants and drivers. Volvo has said it will use cameras and sensors to monitor if a driver is distracted or intoxicated, putting the car in charge if there is a safety risk and General Motors monitors drivers to keep their attention while the self-driving Super Cruise feature is on.
While there are safety and privacy concerns that come with companies training cameras and sensors on drivers, backers say they can improve the driver experience. SRI says that if a car detects the driver is sad, the route can be changed to something more scenic and relaxing. But the monitoring can also improve safety when a person is behind the wheel, detecting a health emergency or taking an incapacitated driver off the road.
"We embarked on a mission to enable cars to understand and partner with drivers. For in-car AI to succeed it has to recognize human emotion and physical state," William Mark, SRI’s president of information and computing sciences, said in a statement. "SRI's developments in emotional AI vision technology will lead to an enriched driving experience. For the first time your car will understand you."