Photo of driving distraction metrics courtesy of Affectiva.

Photo of driving distraction metrics courtesy of Affectiva.

A Boston-based company that specializes in emotion detection technology has begun offering its Affectiva Automotive AI product to vehicle manufacturers. The product, which is considered the first in-cabin artificial intelligence sensing solution, is designed to improve road safety by identifying dangerous driving behavior.

Affectiva's product could also be used in the autonomous vehicle sector, according to the company.

Affectiva Automotive AI identifies — in real-time from face and voice — complex and nuanced emotional and cognitive states of occupants in a vehicle, to deliver "comprehensive people analytics."

While interfacing with a vehicle’s safety systems, Affectiva Automotive AI can distinguish a wide range of driver impairment states caused by drowsiness, physical distraction or mental distraction. For example, the solution measures facial expressions and emotions such as joy, anger, and surprise, as well as vocal expressions of anger, arousal, and laughter. It also provides key indicators of drowsiness such as yawning, eye closure and blink rates.

Research shows that drowsy driving causes one out of every 10 crashes, according to the AAA Foundation. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that some 1,000 injuries a day in the U.S. involve distracted driving.

"We are now training on large amounts of naturalistic driver and passenger data that Affectiva has collected, to ensure our models perform accurately in real-world automotive environments," said Rana el Kaliouby, CEO and co-founder. "With a deep understanding of the emotional and cognitive states of people in a vehicle, our technology will not only help save lives and improve the overall transportation experience, but accelerate the commercial use of semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles."

Up until now, artificial intelligence has allowed self-driving systems to understand only what is occurring outside of the car. As self-driving capabilities continue to advance, it will be important to monitor a driver’s state to assess whether the driver can assume control in semi-autonomous vehicles. As autonomous vehicles become commercially available, Affectiva Automotive AI’s understanding of the in-cabin environment will shift to allow for the adaptation of the travel experience based on occupant moods and reactions.

Currently, Affectiva is collaborating with leading OEMs, Tier 1s and technology providers to bring its Automotive AI solution to production vehicles.