Panasonic's New AI Keeps Drowsy Drivers Awake


Panasonic has developed artificial intelligence that can prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel by predicting their level of drowsiness. The new technology is an in-car system that monitors and detects drowsiness before it happens and then reacts to it, keeping the driver comfortably awake at all times.

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The Japanese company reports that there are five levels of drowsiness: not drowsy at all, slightly drowsy, drowsy, very drowsy, and seriously drowsy. Predicting the drowsiness level of a driver before it happens is the goal.

The system consists of a camera and a sensor that both constantly monitor the driver. They measure how often the driver blinks, facial expressions, heat loss from the body, and illuminance.

credit: Panasonic

"A person who feels drowsy shows various signs," Panasonic explained in a press release. "For example, people will 'have a drowsy facial expression,' or 'blink in a specific way,' when becoming drowsy. Identifying these signs allows to detect the level of drowsiness."

The data from the camera and sensor is combined with information about the in-vehicle environment, and the AI then decides the drowsiness level of the driver. The measurements are so precise, the drowsiness levels can be predicted before they happen.

Together with the Ohara Memorial Institute for Science of Labor, Panasonic compiled a database of various measurements on drowsiness and biological signals and analyzed them from a physiological standpoint. They found that the key to keeping a driver awake is thermal sensation.

When people are too warm or the lights are too dim, they tend to get sleepy. So, once the drowsiness level is predicted, the thermal sensation of the driver can be adjusted using airflow within the vehicle. The brightness level will also be adjusted to offset the drowsiness.

While other drowsiness-detection systems exist, they use alarms or physical contact to keep the driver awake. The key word in Panasonic's new technology is keeping the driver "comfortably" awake — meaning, no touching or loud sounds.

Drivers won't be able to rely completely on the new AI. Cool air and bright lights won't prevent everyone from falling asleep, so the best thing to do is just get some sleep when you aren't driving.

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