Volvo is conducting a new research project into in-car driver monitoring aimed at improving safety and allowing cars to better know their drivers.

Volvo Cars driver sensor research project - 1

Conducted with involvement from Gothenburg's Chalmers University of Technology, the Swedish car maker says the driver monitoring sensors already installed into test vehicles can recognise and distinguish whether a driver is tired or inattentive.

Intended to help make cars of the future even safer, the dashboard-mounted sensors can monitor where drivers are looking, how open their eyes are and their head position and angle.

Undertaken with an eye towards autonomous car incorporation, Volvo says the project could lead to the development of safety systems that detect the driver’s state and adjust the car accordingly, including being able to wake a driver falling asleep.

Volvo Cars driver sensor research project - 3

Volvo engineer and driver support functions project leader Per Landfors said the technology would enable drivers to be able to rely more on their car, and know that it will help them when needed.

“Since the car is able to detect if a driver is not paying attention, safety systems can be adapted more effectively,” Landfors said.

“For example, the car’s support systems can be activated later on if the driver is focused, and earlier if the driver’s attention is directed elsewhere.”

Able to team with existing safety systems such as lane keep assist, forward collision warning with automatic braking and adaptive cruise control with queue assist, Volvo says analysis of the driver’s state – known as driver state estimation – is a field that may be key to self-driving cars of the future determining for themselves whether drivers are capable of taking control in certain conditions.

The research project and driver monitoring technology are part of the manufacturer’s broader 2008-launched ‘Vision 2020’ safety goal of having no one killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020.

In December last year, Volvo announced it will initiate an autonomous driving pilot project from this year, with 100 self-driving cars planned to reach public Gothenburg roads by 2017.

Volvo Cars driver sensor research project - 2