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Mitsubishi driverless car concept monitors passenger wellbeing

Image credit: reuters

Mitsubishi has unveiled a new driverless car concept containing sensors which can detect the health and wellbeing of its passengers. The company claims the car will hit the roads in 2030.

The EMIRAI S concept vehicle includes infrared cameras inside the vehicle that will be able to detect changes in skin brightness that can be used to measure heart rates. It also has a face tracking function that can track facial features including eyes under a variety of different lighting conditions and a thermal sensor that will measure the body temperature of passengers.

Using this information the vehicle will be able to react to the condition of its passengers through subtle changes such as adjusting the lighting and air conditioning, playing sounds, or calling emergency services in a more extreme case.

It will also be able to react to driver fatigue, a common cause of road accidents, although with the current plans to make it an autonomous vehicle this may be a somewhat redundant feature.

Speaking at the unveiling at the Toyko Motor Show, the firm’s executive officer for automotive equipment, Hiroshi Onishi, said such vehicles could help tackle “societal challenges”.

“To give an example, one of the issues is an ageing society,” he said. “What we have already actually experienced is that there is an increased number of accidents involving older drivers. So with this kind of sensing systems, you will hopefully be able to get the number of these accidents down.”

“For example with the sensors, if it detects the driver is not paying attention or is not feeling well it can initiate an emergency or stop the car at the side of the road and call a doctor if necessary.”

The company also demonstrated how the EMIRAI S could connect to businesses at a destination - such as an airport - and passengers could order food and other services to be there on arrival, or even to be delivered to them. The vehicle includes voice recognition technology capable of distinguishing between different voices and handling requests.

Onishi said he believed such vehicles would reach roads “by about 2030”, and would travel alongside traditional vehicles. Although he added that managing the mix of human-driven and autonomous vehicles on roads still needed to be addressed.

The Japanese company is currently developing new systems to control and guide autonomous cars, including an approach which combines satellite data with high-definition 3D maps to offer positioning accuracy of around 25 centimetres.

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