Denso works on advanced image recognition tech to monitor driver alertness

by Autocar Pro News Desk 18 Oct 2017

Tier 1 supplier Denso Corporation has announced it will collaborate with Silicon Valley-based technology company Xperi Corporation’s group company FotoNation for jointly developing cabin sensing technology.

The partnership will help Denso improve the performance of its Driver Status Monitor, an active safety product currently used in commercial vehicles. Improvements of such products also will help it accelerate the development of next-generation products to be used in passenger vehicles. That includes a system to help drivers return to manually driving mode during Level 3 of autonomous driving.

This collaboration aims to achieve the world’s most sophisticated driver status detection, which will not be affected by differences between individual faces, or by sunglasses, masks, and other facial coverings, in the vehicle cabin where environmental light changes dramatically.

Denso started supplying the Driver Status Monitor for commercial vehicles from 2014. This safety product uses a cabin camera to capture images of the driver and a computer vision technology to detect the driver’s face angle to determine the level of drowsiness. By utilising its proprietary algorithm for carefully analysing the driver’s eye blinking, the driver status monitor can detect driver drowsiness and alert the driver when it judges the driver is distracted or falling asleep at the wheel. 

FotoNation has been working on computer imaging solutions integration for over 10 years. Its technologies are being used in various devices such as mobile phones, digital cameras, drones and security cameras. The company says that approximately 25 percent of the world’s smartphones currently use its image recognition technology.

“Understanding the status of the driver and engaging them at the right time is an important component for enabling the future of autonomous driving. I believe this collaboration with Xperi will help accelerate our innovative ADAS product development by bringing together the unique expertise of both our companies,” says Yukihiro Kato, senior executive director, Information and Safety Systems Business Group, Denso.

The Tier 1 supplier says that by using FotoNation’s facial image recognition and neural networks technologies, the detection accuracy will increase remarkably by detecting much more features. Instead of just relying on the conventional detection method based on the relative positions of the eyes, nose, mouth, and other facial regions, it will develop new functions, such as those to detect the driver’s gaze direction and facial expressions more accurately. And it will try to understand the state of mind of the driver in order to help create more comfortable vehicles.

The prototype of the next-generation driver status monitor by Denso will be showcased at the Tokyo Motor Show from October 27 to November 5, 2017.