Automakers are hastily working on new ways to monitor everything around the vehicle, but what about the driver sitting behind the wheel, or the passengers sitting in back? Thus far, car interiors haven’t received nearly as much attention.
That could change with the arrival of Tel Aviv-based Guardian Optical Technologies. The company is building sensing technology that will allow its potential users (such as OEMs) to take a closer look at what goes on inside the cabin. Its goal is to help manufacturers produce the first generation of automobiles that are “passenger-aware.”
“The data that our sensor can supply is very valuable to all sorts of applications inside the vehicle,” said Gil Dotan, co-founder and CEO of Guardian Optical Technologies.
While this technology could be applicable to other industries, Guardian chose to focus on automotive, which offers a number of possible use cases. For example, it can determine if a driver is drowsy, distracted or holding onto something, such as a smartphone. This information could be used to identify dangerous situations before it’s too late.
“And if you are an insurer, you would want to have this data so you can make sure that you optimize all your algorithms when it comes to charging for insurance,” said Dotan. “Both insurers and OEMs want to figure out what kind of behavior usually leads to accidents. Specifically if you’re an OEM you would want to optimize the safety systems inside the vehicle, whether they are proactive systems trying to avoid an accident.”
Could this lead to an autonomous driving mode that’s automatically turned on when drivers aren’t paying attention? It’s too early to say for sure, but it’s one possibility as manufacturers grapple with the rise in auto accidents.
“Saving lives is something we’re definitely interested in,” Dotan added.
Learning from the Road
Guardian’s technology has yet to be deployed, but early tests have revealed an interesting look at the way passengers behave when the vehicle hits a bump in the road. Dotan found that while objects jostle with the car’s movement, humans tend to come back to their original posture. This could be helpful in designing better, more supportive seats for tomorrow’s automobiles.
What about non-human passengers, such as pets? Dotan said it would be “very hard” to tell the difference between the various types of dogs, particularly those that differ in size. He believes that machine learning could help, along with the addition of 3D depth-mapping, which offers a greater level of in-car monitoring.
“Once we add the 3D aspect, you will find the outcomes to these algorithms are much more reliable and faster to provide an indication,” he said.
In December Guardian announced that it had raised $5.1 million in Series A funding from Maniv Mobility and Mirai Creation Fund. The company plans to use the funds to bring on more talent and to prepare its technology for production.
“We want to be in the assembly line,” said Dotan. “That’s our first go-to-market objective. Our sensor would also be very well suited for the aftermarket, but our first focus is OEMs.”
About the author:
Louis Bedigian is an experienced journalist and contributor to various automotive trade publications. He is a dynamic writer, editor and communications specialist with expertise in the areas of journalism, promotional copy, PR, research and social networking.