Film-Based Sensor Could Let Your Self-Driving Car Known When You're In Trouble — or Nodding Off
Researchers from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have showcased a sheet-shaped sensor, based on zinc-oxide films, which could monitor the vital signs of car drivers — including whether or not they're functionally impaired.
Many nations around the world, including the US, have already mandated or are looking into mandating driver monitoring systems in vehicles — either exclusively for those who have been caught driving while impaired by drink or drugs or as a blanket feature like seatbelts. Traditional systems rely on computer vision systems, but the AIST team has another idea: A simple pressure-sensing sheet on the driver's seat.
Built using zinc oxide-based films with silver screen printing, the piezoelectric sheet sensor is installed in the base of the driver's seat. As the driver shifts, a connected monitoring system tracks their movements — with enough accuracy, the team writes, to calculate pulse and respiration rates as well as body position.
Using those data, the team explains, it would be possible to detect when a user has become drowsy — and trigger a warning. If installed in a vehicle with self-driving capabilities, the car could even plot a path to a safe parking place - and, in the case of a medical emergency such as a heart attack, place a call for assistance.
While the film-based sensor has proven its worth in the lab, though, the team has yet to try it in an actual car — where vibrations and other vehicle movements could add noise to the readings.
"This work demonstrates the feasibility of an unobtrusive driver monitoring system in which heat-resistant piezoelectric sheet sensors are embedded in the seats of future smart vehicles," the team concludes.
The work has been published in the journal Applied Electronic Materials under closed-access terms.