Building emotionally aware cars on the path to full autonomy

Author

Affectiva and Rana el Kaliouby

February 13, 2017

Recent innovations around the autonomous car have shaken up the automotive industry. Manufacturers and their suppliers are all accelerating their work on the cars of the future, both regular human-operated cars and driverless or semi-autonomous vehicles. But beyond just issues of autonomy, these cars of the future are undergoing a fundamental shift in human-machine interaction. Consumers today crave more relational and conversational interactions with devices, as evidenced by the popularity of chatbots and virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa — and the automotive industry has taken notice.

As such, next-generation cars are emerging as advanced artificial intelligence (AI) systems that will power an entirely new automotive experience in which cars will become conversational interfaces between the driver, passengers, the vehicle itself, and its controls — all connected to the IoT and mobile devices we use. Leveraging emotion recognition technology that senses and analyzes expressions of emotion, cars will soon come equipped with the ability to perceive our reactions and moods and to respond accordingly. These “emotionally aware” vehicles will benefit the automotive industry and consumers in a number of ways.

Increased road safety

One of the most compelling benefits of emotion-aware vehicles is the ability to monitor drivers’ behavior and address potential safety concerns associated with facial expressions and mood. Emotion AI systems, as I call them, could monitor for indicators of driver attention and engagement (or lack thereof), identifying fatigue, distraction, and frustration to prevent accidents before they happen.

Imagine if a car detected that a driver was falling asleep. It could then respond in a number of ways to ensure the driver remained alert and awake, such as by playing loud music, prompting the driver to pull over, or even slowing down or stopping the car if necessary. Similarly, detecting anger could lead the car to lock the door, slow down, or play soothing music. The ability to recognize and respond to a range of emotions that signify potential hazards has significant implications for road safety.

Improving the in-car experience with optimal personalization

Beyond the safety features made possible by Emotion AI, emotion recognition technology can improve the in-car experience from an entertainment perspective, as well.

For example, when driving in bad traffic, a car could make personalized recommendations for detours and interesting stops along the way, or even recommend music or temperature settings. Collecting emotional data could also help to develop a driver’s unique profile for complete customization of how vehicles operate, in turn influencing the experience that drivers and passengers have.

Not only can Emotion AI improve the in-car experience for drivers and passengers, it can better inform auto manufacturers of consumers’ habits and preferences. Companies can tap into emotion data to continuously improve their technology — particularly when it comes to understanding consumers’ experiences in self-driving cars — and adapt aspects of vehicles accordingly.

Enabling autonomous cars

Many in the automotive industry are focused on the creation and deployment of autonomous vehicles, all powered using AI. By tapping into passengers’ emotions, AI systems can adapt to control the operation of the vehicle accordingly and can offer valuable insight into how autonomous cars should operate.

For instance, in semi-autonomous cars it is critical to determine whether a driver is engaged and alert before the car hands back controls. And if a self-driving car perceived emotional distress from passengers, it could drive more slowly or play soothing music to assuage their anxiety. In addition, AI systems could be integrated with other IoT devices and data inputs — such as traffic and weather reports — in order to better inform navigation, and prepare passengers for potential stressors that may arise from traffic delays or poor driving conditions.

Driving the next generation of transportation

As self-driving and connected cars come to the fore, the emotional connection between the vehicle and the human will be critical in optimizing the transportation experience while guaranteeing optimal safety. With sophisticated technology stacks, sensors and tight integration with the connected devices we use in our daily lives, next-generation cars will curate highly personalized and “smart” transportation experiences, and transform vehicles from machines to relational assistants.

This article was written by Affectiva and Rana el Kaliouby from VentureBeat and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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