The Increasing Influence of Passenger Vehicles
Passenger vehicles are an integral part of everyday commute world over. Households in the United Kingdom with more than one car increased from 17 percent in 1986 to 32 percent in 2014. Western European countries such as Italy, France, Germany, and Spain have more cars per capita than the United States. The influence of cars is no less in the United States either, with American commuters traveling 29.2 miles on an average every day in their car, totaling 10,658 miles per year. As cars have increasingly become indispensable, there is a pressing need for them to be made more secure to prevent unauthorized entry and theft, and greater driver assistance features need to be incorporated to prevent mishaps due to human error. Moreover, with people spending more time in their car, it also becomes a perfect medium to monitor their health and promote wellness, emphasizing on preemptive care.
The term “Biometrics” pertains to the analysis of measureable physiological and behavioral traits of human beings. This analysis aids in the identification of individuals by precisely dissecting and recognizing their unique characteristics.
The primary application of biometrics in automotive is in the avenue of Vehicle Security. BMW and Volvo have developed palm vein and fingerprint recognition systems, respectively, for vehicle entry, while Volkswagen has created a facial recognition technology for driver authentication. Driver identification and authentication is further poised to be bolstered by the advent of cutting edge biometric technologies such as ECG, developed by biometric specialist companies such as Nymi. The company has developed a wrist band which can be used to capture the unique heart beat signature of a user. This can later be used to authenticate the person for a wide range of applications including secure entry into a vehicle. The Nymi system promises to be a foolproof authentication system, as once a heartbeat signature is paired with a band, it cannot be used by anyone else.
Apart from Vehicle Security, other avenues such as Health Wellness and Wellbeing (HWW) and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are being ushered into the automotive space by biometrics technologies. For example, heartbeat and Iris scan can not only be used to authenticate drivers, but also their health and fatigue levels, respectively.
The increasing menace of lifestyle diseases across the globe has spurred rigorous research and development activity in the health and wellness space. Several OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers are engaged actively in developing products and solutions which can bring proactive HWW solutions to the occupants of the vehicle. Audi recently showcased the Audi Fit driver wearable at CES 2016 and Ford has partnered with Medtronics to bring on board the feature of continuous glucose monitoring to its cars.
In the future, ADAS will be a key application avenue for biometrics in the automotive space. Roads, even in developed countries are not immune to accidents caused by driver fatigue, distracted driving, overspeeding, and drunk driving. Automotive OEMs are increasingly investing millions of dollars to incorporate technologies into their vehicles that would prevent accidents due to human error. Advanced sensors which can continuously monitor the vitals of drivers and alert them to any abnormalities are being developed. Ford has developed a workload estimator which uses a combination of metrics including gas pedal inputs, fatigue level of the driver and traffic density to estimate the stress on the driver and advises him to take a break. BMW has incorporated gesture recognition technology in its 2016, 7 series vehicles. This feature will aid drivers to execute a number of cockpit functions such as music system management and phone call handling without taking their eyes off the road.
Vigo, a US-based company has developed a Bluetooth headset that can track eye and head movements using infrared sensors. The device continuously monitors head and eye movements and senses when a driver slips into a drowsy state. The headset then alerts the driver through vibrations, flashlights, music, and phone calls.
Biometrics features in automobiles, which till now were restricted to fictional novels, sci-fi and spy movies are finally evolving at a steady pace to play a central role in the mobility experience of the future. In the coming years, automotive OEMs will invest in building in-house biometric capabilities and also look at acquiring standalone biometric and technology specialists to stay ahead of the competition. Over the next decade, the proliferation of wearables and reduction in costs associated with sensors and the learning curve are expected to result in rapid penetration of biometrics in automotive. This segment is expected to grow at a CAGR of 38.3% in the next 8 years. This is expected to result in at least one form of biometrics discussed above being present in 1 out of 3 cars sold by 2025, globally.