It’s probably happened to all of us at one time or another ... we’re driving with a passenger in the car, we get distracted by some thought or task, and are suddenly jolted back into the present moment by our passenger yelling “Look out for that guy!”. Without their warning, we might have run into “that guy.” Given that many of us spend a lot of time driving alone, Continental has come up with an electronic version of that watchful passenger – it’s a driver assistance system that uses LEDs to alert zoned-out drivers to danger.
The LEDs are integrated into a continuous lighting strip that goes all the way around the interior of the car – its individual sections can be selectively illuminated as needed. Along with those LEDs, the “driver focus” system also incorporates a steering column-mounted infrared camera, that looks back at the driver’s face. By analyzing real-time video of the driver’s head and eye movements, an on-board computer is able to tell where they’re looking, and if they’re showing signs of fatigue.
Using existing commercially-available driver assistance technologies, the system is additionally able to monitor traffic conditions around the car. In particular, it’s able to detect if the car is drifting out of its lane, if another vehicle suddenly enters its path, or if it’s getting too close to the vehicle it’s following.
Should any of these things occur, the system then checks the steering column camera to see if the driver is looking in the direction of the problem. If they aren’t, the system gets their attention by illuminating a section of the LED strip, in the direction that the driver should be looking.
Depending on the situation, the LEDs can simply flash on and off, produce a directional trail of light, or illuminate in other patterns. The danger level of the situation is indicated by the color of the lights, which ranges from white to yellow to red.
The system is currently installed in a concept car, that was presented for the first time last month at the Chicago Auto Show.