In a bid to prevent drowsy driving, Panasonic has developed a technology that will detect and predict a person's level of drowsiness using non-contact measurement of blinking features and facial expressions.

The technology, according to the company, detects a driver's shallow drowsiness at the initial state by accurately measuring the driver's states without physical contact, including blinking features and facial expressions, captured by an in-vehicle camera, and processing these signals using artificial intelligence.

The system extracts an outline of the eyes (shown in the photo below) and monitors time-sequence shifts in blinking features by checking the opening between the eyelids (shown in the graphs below).

20170731_EDNA_Panasonic-sensor-driver-01 (cr) Figure 1: Detecting drowsiness by observing the blinking features. (Source: Panasonic)

The technology also uses measurement data from the in-vehicle environment, such as heat loss from the driver and illuminance, to predict transitions in the driver's drowsiness level. Panasonic has conducted joint research with Chiba University, which revealed that heat loss from a person's body is correlated with the person's drowsiness after prescribed time elapses, regardless of how much clothes the person wears.

Panasonic has also developed a contactless technology to measure heat loss from a person's body with the company's original infrared array sensor Grid-EYE. In addition, the company has identified the effect of the elapsed time and the surrounding brightness, which is measured by an environment sensor, on a person's level of drowsiness.

The technology also combines thermal sensation monitoring function, allowing the driver to stay comfortably awake while driving.

20170731_EDNA_Panasonic-sensor-driver-02 (cr) Figure 2: Sensing a person's level of thermal sensation, under the same environment, using the infrared array sensor. (Source: Panasonic)

Panasonic's newly developed technology, with 22 patents on file, is suitable for applications in human- and environment-monitoring systems for use in such places as private and commercial vehicles, offices and educational institutions, drowsiness-prediction systems and drowsiness-control systems for keeping people awake.

20170731_EDNA_Panasonic-sensor-driver-03 (cr) Figure 3: Conceptual diagram of Panasonic's drowsiness control technology. (Source: Panasonic)

Samples will be available from October 2017.