Smartphones have brought many changes to everyday life; they have completely changed the way we communicate, consume, and presumably most importantly, the way we set the passcode. We no longer use numbers, alphabets, or symbols – we now use our body as a password. Biometric technology, which started with a fingerprint recognition system for unlocking a smartphone, quickly developed into facial and iris recognition over the years.
Biometric technology is also attracting attention as a next-generation technology that not only improves security but also improves the quality of life for convenience and health care. This is why the automotive industry is actively introducing biometric technologies. The technology is useful for improving security or providing customized services in future mobility such as self-driving cars. Let’s take a look at biometric technologies in the automotive industry.
Why Biometric Technology Is Important in Future Mobility
First of all, it would be necessary to address the importance of biometric technology in future mobility. Cars have been automated over the past few years, including from door lock system to engine starter, headlamp lighting, controlling transmission, infotainment system power source, and suspension setting. We no longer use the physical buttons and started to control all these with electrical signals. Lately, automakers even added the computer processor to it. Cars are now becoming smart devices.
But we also need a safety net for these gadgets, because the system itself can be subject to various crimes such as system hacking as well as errors. In addition, personal information is needed to provide customized services such as creating an indoor environment and providing the right channel to watch. The demand for strengthening security has grown for better privacy.
The human body is quite special, in terms of security issues. From head to toe, there is not a single part that is the same as anyone else’s. A typical example is a fingerprint. Fingerprints have unique characteristics for each individual, such as flexion, damage, and irregularity, and the pattern. And there is a variety of biometric information in a person’s body, such as voice, iris, and everyone has a unique individual gait pattern. If we could use such biometric information, we would no longer need passwords, and we would be free from hacking problems.
We, humans, use our hands all the time, no matter what we do – when we open the door of a car, start the engine, and drive. Therefore, it was natural for the automakers to introduce the fingerprint recognition system first among many other biometric technologies. In 2018, Hyundai Motor Company introduced the world’s first fingerprint system that locks the doors and starts the engine, through its Chinese Santa Fe.
The registration process is similar to a smartphone, but the level of security is more thorough. The fingerprint scanner on the driver’s door handle is four times bigger than the mobile device and is both waterproof and dustproof. The scanner of the door handle and start button also recognizes differences in body capacitance transmitted through the fingers, not to mention the difference in the fingerprint pattern. Natural changes due to aging are also updated every time the driver sits behind the wheel. The system changes the interior setting such as side mirror angle and seat position according to each setting of the individual driver.
Iris and Pupil Recognition
The human eye has various colors – black, gold, and blue. In fact, strictly speaking, the color of the eye is the color of the iris that controls the amount of light. Each person has different colors and patterns of the iris. Even both eyes of a person are different, so the probability of error is only one in a million if the system scans one eye, and the chance plunges to one in a trillion if both eyes are used. Gentex, a U.S. auto parts manufacturer, has introduced a system that recognizes the driver’s iris using the infrared sensor in a rearview mirror.
Hyundai Motor Group is also developing iris recognition technology. The Driver State Warning System (DSW) developed by Hyundai Mobis would be one example. DSW is a feature that delivers a warning when the driver is not focusing on driving, and it takes a step forward from the current system that only recognizes the direction of the face or when the eyes are closed, providing a safer driving environment. It is not just looking at the movements of the eyelids, but also observing the activity of the pupils inside the iris to increase the accuracy of the detection of careless driving. This technology will be first implemented in medium and large-sized commercial vehicles, which will be introduced in 2021.
Hyundai Mobis’ DSW not only tracks pupils through infrared cameras but also recognizes drivers’ faces. It is called facial recognition technology. DSW’s facial recognition technology identifies drivers through facial features such as eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. In addition, the system analyzes the pupil and facial movement, then combines with driving information such as the speed of the car and steering angle, to offer safer driving. It detects the risk of lane departure and intrusion caused by driver carelessness in advance and calls the driver’s attention with cluster warning lights, alarm sounds, and vibrations.
Facial recognition technology is also used to register a number of drivers and to implement personalized features such as seat position and automatic side mirror adjustments. In the future, the company plans to increase the level of biometric recognition by converging with deep learning and to include the emergency feature, so that the vehicle can stop on its own on the shoulder and call for help in emergencies.
Multimodal recognition technology, which simultaneously scans various parts of the body, such as facial muscles and heart rate, enables more diverse and wider service provision. The Real-time Emotion Adaptive Driving (R.E.A.D) unveiled by Kia Motors last year uses cameras, ultrasonic waves, and radar sensors to analyze various body information, including facial expressions, heartbeats, skin conduction, and breathing – to grasp the physical and emotional state of the occupants in real-time. And according to the results, it provides customized interior: lightings, music, seat vibrations, scents, etc. It is a new kind of service designed for the passengers’ comfort.
Earlier, Kia Motors also introduced “U Health Care,” which is equipped with sensors in the switch on the steering wheel to identify the driver’s heart rate, body fat, and stress index. U Health Care will also add a feature to determine whether a person is drunk or not by checking blood sugar and electrocardiogram.
Hyundai Mobis has developed a biometric technology that recognizes minute movements of the occupant’s chest. It is the next-generation Rear Occupant Alert (ROA), which uses radar sensors to prevent accidents involving rear-seat passengers. Because the current rear passenger notification system analyzes weight or ultrasonic sensors, it is difficult to recognize young children who weigh much less than an adult. The system also lacked accuracy in long vehicles such as buses. However, ROA accurately recognizes passengers with radar sensors.
ROA’s radar signal penetrates the clothes of the occupants to measure even the minute movement of blood flow. It is to detect the vital signs from any being that is alive and breathing. This gives a more accurate indication of whether a person is in the rear seat or not, and can also distinguish adults, infants, and dogs. In the future, Hyundai Mobis plans to further develop radars that measure heart rate by utilizing a specific algorithm.
The Essential In-vehicle Biometric Technology For Future Mobility
Bio-recognition technology once introduced for security purposes can also be used for providing various personalized services in future mobility. This is because, through various biometric information, it can create an individual interior setting for each driver and passenger such as driving performance and indoor atmosphere. In other words, the technology can be used for not only the joy of driving but also for entertainment and fitness features.
Due to the growing demand, the market for in-cabin sensing, which is the core of biometric technology, is also expected to grow significantly in the future. According to Persistence Market Research, a U.S. market research firm, the market for in-vehicle passenger sensing systems will grow by an average of 6.9 percent every year for six years from 2017, reaching over 2 billion USD by 2022.
Above all, biometric technologies will become more diverse in the era of autonomous driving, when drivers are free from driving. This is why HMG is focusing on developing biometric technologies. Let’s look forward to seeing how HMG’s biometrics features will please us.