Volvo’s EX90 electric SUV scans your eyes to spot tired drivers

We all know the story that Volvo was the first company to patent the modern three-point seat belt, but left the patent open to other car manufacturers. This is one of the things that has helped cement its stellar reputation for security. Now the company is starting to show off the new innovations it hopes will make driving safer in the years to come.

The company showcased its ambitious safety plans while teasing details of its new EX90 electric SUV. The all-new electric SUV is set to be unveiled in November, but that hasn’t stopped Volvo from sharing more about the built-in safety tech that will come with the car.

Volvo had two main areas to discuss when it came to the safety of its cars. Outside, it is about to unveil a barrage of sensors to spot dangers on the road. Inside the car, cameras aimed at the driver can detect if you are not paying attention to the road ahead.

Could the Volvo EX90 be that? (Picture: Volvo)

“The idea behind it is to learn more about the driver and driver states,” says Emma Tivesten, Volvo’s safety research manager.

“To really know when a driver is attentive and alert, and when a driver deviates from normal driver behaviors, perhaps due to impairment or distractions, or drowsiness.”

To do this, the new EX90 will be accompanied by a system consisting of two cameras aimed at the driver. The cameras will monitor the driver’s eyes to make sure they are watching the road, while sensors in the steering wheel will assess their steering input.

Tivesten adds: “New hardware in the cars is the dual camera system which captures where the driver is looking, whether the eyes are open or closed, and it also captures the orientation of the head. And the capacitive steering wheel can detect if the driver is gripping the steering wheel.

“Together this adds to the existing information we already have in cars today, such as where the driver stays in lane, lane keeping performance and also steering input.”

Volvo's EX90 electric SUV scans your eyes to spot tired driversSensors in the cabin will monitor the driver. (Picture: Volvo)

All this information will be used by the car to monitor if the driver is paying attention to the task at hand, if he is distracted and even if he falls asleep. This, says Volvo, means the new car will be able to “understand when the driver is in a state that is not optimal for driving” and will be able to “take action to help avoid accidents”.

By assessing the driver’s gaze, Volvo claims the car will be able to spot a distracted driver. It could be when their eyes spend too little time on the road and instead stare at their phone, or when they’re too focused ahead, which could be a sign of “cognitive distraction” because their mind is elsewhere.

If the car suspects you’re not giving it your full attention, it may sound a warning in the cabin or flash a symbol on the dashboard. These warnings can increase in severity depending on the situation, and the car may even come to a safe stop on the side of the road and turn on the hazard warning lights.

When the EX90 is finally unveiled on November 9, this new driver tracking system will be paired with a series of sensors on the roof of the car, meaning it’s fully equipped for autonomous driving.

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