Volvo’s EX90 models will soon include driver understanding technology, which uses two cameras...

Volvo’s EX90 models will soon include driver understanding technology, which uses two cameras and eye gaze tracking.

Photo: Volvo Car USA

Volvo Car USA is introducing a new real-time interior sensing system as standard in its EX90 beginning in November 2022. The goal of the system is to understand when the driver is in a state that isn’t optimal for driving, so the vehicle can determine which actions to take to help avoid crashes.

By basing its calculations on Volvo research findings, the sensing system allows the car to identify whether the driver’s ability is impaired, perhaps due to drowsiness, distraction, or other causes for inattention. Using two cameras, the system observes the driver’s eye-gaze patterns. By measuring how much of the time the driver looks at the road ahead, it understands when the driver’s eyes, and perhaps mind, are focused elsewhere.

The vehicle’s capacitive steering wheel also plays a key role. It senses if the driver lets go of the wheel — monitoring the stability of their steering input.

With Volvo’s patented technology for real-time sensing of gaze patterns and steering behavior, the car will be able to take appropriate action to help the driver when needed. This might be a simple warning signal that grows in volume with the severity of the situation. If the driver doesn’t respond to increasingly clear warnings, the car can even safely stop by the side of the road, sending a warning to other road users with its hazard lights.

Distracted driving took the lives of some 3,142 Americans in 2020 alone, while 633 deaths were linked to drowsy driving crashes in the same year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.