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Auto Tech Updates: Emotion Detection and the Textalyzer

Feature Image: Ford Focus RS prototype LEDs react to driver's stress levels
While autonomous driving gets a lot of attention from the media, notable developments in other areas of auto technology continue to focus on the driver. Consumer and legislation trends drive advancements both inside and outside of the car. Two recent newsworthy industry updates include Ford's emotion-detecting car and a device to determine if a driver was texting just before an accident. In an effort to make driving safer, scientists are working to integrate biometric sensors into a car's hardware to determine the emotional and physiological state of a driver. Using facial recognition, heartbeat sensors and breathing detectors, researchers can determine if a driver is drowsy, stressed, or excited. A Ford Focus RS prototype "lit up according to the mood of its driver, who was wired up with fitness trackers and skin sensors. A computer then interpreted the biometric data to make thousands of LED lights in the side windows flicker along with the driver’s stress levels." In the video below, you can see the car in action, lighting up according to the fluctuating excitement from the driver.   Dubbed the "Textalyzer," a new device from a data gathering company can determine what activity has just occurred on a mobile phone within a discreet amount of time. As a tool for law enforcement investigating an automobile accident in the field, the Textalyzer can provide information such as which apps were open, and how the phone was tapped, swiped, clicked and pinched just before the accident. In much the same way as a Breathalyzer, which determines the alcohol level of a driver, the Textalyzer may become mandatory if law enforcement chooses to utilize it. State governments currently considering using Textalyzers include New York, Tennessee, New Jersey and Chicago. While breathalyzers require suspicion of alcohol use, this tool may simply become part of standard procedure. This technology is not without controversy, however, as watchdog groups are already objecting to its use as a violation of the Fourth-Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Textalyzer does not show the content of what was messaged, only sharing that the device was in use. With so many ways to consider how automotive tech can contribute to safer driving, we at Drivemode will be interested to see how these technologies develop from consumer, legislative, and innovation perspectives.