“Calm down!” says your car

iStock_000006379661Medium Isn’t it fascinating how quickly technology evolves these days? Automated driving, speech recognition or 3D-printing all used to be science fiction material only a decade ago. Huge advances have been made, particularly very recently, and so they could become normality within the decade to come. The digitalisation of everything means the automation of everything: pictures, sounds, light waves, and movements are translated into bits, the universal language of all computers. This following invention yet again highlights how diverse the capabilities of digital technology are.

Oh no! She’s becoming aggressive again

The problem: road rage. We all know these situations too well. Sitting in your car at 08:45 am, late for work and there is literally no movement whatsoever on the road. People become impatient behind their wheels, the frustration starts to rise. Now just the tinniest additional annoyance may cause us to fly off the handle. Maybe your temper is as calm as a mountain stream and nothing makes you flip, but for most of us it’s certainly different. That’s why a team of Swiss researchers from the technical school Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) has developed an in-car detector that senses your emotional mood swings. The technology will be installed on the steering wheel and works via infrared camera.[1] Once you get agitated by some imbecile cutting in, the camera notices the difference in your facial expression. Algorithms then calculate the level of stress in order to respond in an appropriate way. For example, if you’re simply not amused about what’s happening on the street the machine will tell you to please calm down and that everything will be fine. However, a light starts flashing should you continue to be angry. As a last resort, the in-car detector can slow down the speed of your car and even make it stop if you become too aggressive[2]!

Necessary or redundant?

Many accidents and even deaths happen as a direct result of road rage. This is a particularly big problem in mega cities that cannot breathe under the burden of congested traffic. People’s driving capabilities decrease significantly when they’re stressed out. We lose our temper and then act impulsively. Importantly, it is often ignored that emotions are a part of driving. This is in part because driving is always a risky affair. A buddy that recognises your emotions and then takes action to calm you right down is a brilliant idea. Perhaps this feature will be part of every car’s standard equipment within the next couple of years. Or will automated driving make it pointless?

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