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JLR gets inside your head to cut crashes

2015-06-22 11:38

MIND SENSE TECH: JLR's latest safety project is aimed at predicting whether drivers are distracted behind the wheel. (Enlarged image at bottom of text.) Image: Motopress

  • JLR to monitor driving concentration
  • Wellness Seat monitors driver's health
  • Predictive touchscreens
  • Haptic accelerator pedal

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has revealed a range of road-safety research projects that are intended to reduce crashes caused by distracted drivers.

JLR’s ‘Sixth Sense’ projects uses advanced technologyfrom sports, medicine and aerospace to monitor a driver’s pulse, respiration and brain activity to identify stress, fatigue and lack of concentration.

Its UK-based team is also looking at innovations to reduce the time a driver’s eyes are off the road and how to communicate a problem back to the driver with pulses and vibrations through the accelerator pedal.


JLR director of research and technology Dr Wolfgang Epple said: “We believe some of the technologies used in aerospace and medicine could help improve road safety and enhance the driving experience. Cars are becoming more intelligent and more able to use cutting-edge sensors so these research projects are investigating how we could exploit this for the benefit of our customers and other road users.

“One key piece of research is to see how we can measure brainwaves to monitor alertness and concentration. Even if eyes are on the road a lack of concentration or a daydream will mean the driver isn’t paying attention to the driving task.

"He might miss a warning icon or sound or be less aware of other road users so we are looking at how to identify this and prevent it causing an accident.”


The Mind Sense technology research tests whether a car could effectively read brainwaves that indicate a driver is beginning to, the automaker says, “daydream or feel sleepy”.

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The human brain continuously generates four or more distinct brainwaves at different frequencies. By monitoring which type of brainwave is dominant a computer could assess whether a driver is focused, daydreaming, sleepy, or distracted.

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Epple added: “If brain activity indicates a daydream or poor concentration then the steering-wheel or pedals could vibrate to raise the driver’s awareness and re-engage him with driving.

“If Mind Sense does not detect a surge in brain activity when the car displays a warning icon or sound, then it could display it again, or communicate with the driver in a different way, to ensure the driver is made aware of a hazard.”

The most common way to monitor brainwaves is to have sensors attached to a headband, something that would be impractical in a vehicle. JLR is investigating a method used by Nasa to develop a pilot’s concentration and by the US bobsleigh team to enhance concentration and focus.

The automaker is conducting trials to collect more information on the different brainwaves identified through steering wheel sensors and leading neuroscientists to verify the results.


Another project being testED is whether a vehicle can monitor the well-being of the driver using a medical-grade sensor in the seat of a Jaguar XJ. The sensor, originally developed for use in hospitals, has been adapted for car use and detects vibrations from the driver’s heartbeat and breathing.

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Epple said: “As we develop more autonomous driving technology there will be instances when the autonomous car needs to hand control back to the driver.

“To do this safely the car will need to know if the driver is alert and well enough to take over. So our research team is looking at the potential for a range of driver monitoring technologies to give the car enough information to support this decision.

“If the car detects severe health issues, or simply that the driver is not alert, the car could take steps to ensure the driver is sufficiently focused to take over.”

Monitoring the physical health of the driver would  not only detect sudden and serious illness but also allow the car to monitor his stress levels.


JLR hopes to reduce driver distraction by minimising the time the driver’s eyes are on the infotainment screen with a new system in testing – the predictive infotainment screen.

Epple said: “The driver will instinctively look at the infotainment screen or facis when pressing buttons to select navigation, music or the phone. It’s intuitive. So our research is looking at how we could take a current infotainment screen and increase the speed and efficiency of this interaction to minimise the time the driver’s eyes are away from the road and their hand is off the steering-wheel.”


The prototype uses cameras to track the driver’s hand movements and enables the system to predict which button the driver intends to select. This allows successful button selection to take place in mid-air, which means users wouldn’t have to touch the screen itself.

JLR said: “In user trials this increases the speed of successful button selection by 22% and therefore reduces the amount of time the driver is looking at the screen with their eyes off the road.”

The system could also use mid-air touch to provide the driver with a sensation, otherwise known as haptic feedback, that their button selection has been successful. The sensations could include a ‘tap’ on your finger or a ‘tingling’ on your fingertips.


Haptics could also be used to communicate with the driver through the accelerator pedal to increase the speed of response and to ensure the correct action is taken.

To create these sensations in the accelerator pedal, an actuator is fitted to the pedal and allows for vibrations or pulses to be passed through the foot of the driver. The technology also uses a torque motor, which can create resistance in the pedal feel.

This resistance could be used to notify the driver that they are pushing the accelerator through a speed limit. Alternatively, if you were crawling along in traffic a timely warning through the accelerator could prevent you bumping into the car in front.

Epple added: “To avoid saturating the driver with more visuals and sounds, which could overload and distract them, we are exploring other ways for the car to communicate with the driver. With our haptic pedals research we are investigating non-visual ways to communicate which would enable the driver to make smarter and faster decisions and reduce the potential for crashes.”

JLR'S LATEST TECH: The new Mind Sense project hopes to harness driver brainwaves to predict if a driver is distracted or sleepy on the road. Image: Motopress

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