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authentication Synaptics’ 8x8mm Natural ID fingerprint sensor integrated on the directional pad (D-Pad) of a steering wheel. “For liability issues, you want to know for sure who is in the driver’s seat. Legal teams are worried about a four-year old driving to his grandma at the touch of a button” he explained. In fact, more than just a key to more services, formal identification could be a requisite to operate any semi-autonomous or self-driving car. Eventually, fingerprint authentication across multiple devices could make them interact in unexpected ways for the consumer. Patent WO 2014178934 A1 filed in 2014 by Continental Automotive Systems is looking at making sure that once a driver has been authenticated through a biometric identifier, the same biometric identifier recognised on his/her smartphone (providing the car and the cell phone communicate) would immediately disable the wireless communications to prevent driving while on the phone. The biometric identifiers listed include fingerprints but also face recognition from an inward looking cockpit camera. Iris recognition is another technology that could surface into car cockpits. At this year’s CES, EyeLock demonstrated a proof of concept to validate a driver and authorize engine start (the frills being personalized driver settings). Other biometrics are being evaluated, which could enter the cockpit and make insurance companies more confident about allowing a car to be driven, sometimes relating to the driver’s health condition. Texas instrument has come up with a reference design for a concept demonstration of how a driver’s pulse rate, respiration rate, and ECG based heart rate can be obtained from a vehicle steering wheel. The company’s AFE4400 and AFE4300 biometric analog front-ends (AFE) enable the acquisition of all three parameters via simple hand contacts on the steering wheel. The reference design includes a full BLE connectivity design for easy interface to smartphones and tablets. Inferring the driver’s health condition from such biometrics could help the car make such decisions as reducing speed, increasing the distance between vehicles, or changing route altogether to alleviate road-rage. Leveraging and connecting wearable fitness and health trackers to a vehicle’s infotainment system, Ford is looking at exploiting a driver’s health information beyond what a car’s sensor network could collect. Last December, Ford Motor Co. teamed up with Henry Ford Health System to sponsor a tech design challenge for employees to “develop concepts, such as smartphone apps, wearable devices or in-vehicle systems that could extend healthcare to the confines of a car”. Resulting apps could expand the boundaries of patient monitoring, turning the car into a health-check capsule, not only for general health monitoring but also to issue warnings or to simplify health-related administrative tasks (medical test ordering, records access, appointment check-ins, prescription pick-ups). With more sensors being integrated in the car (including why not sweat-based alcohol and drugs tests), more biometric data could be collected and analysed to establish a driver’s capacity to sit responsibly behind the wheel. Eventually, with ID authentication and personalized health checks carried out in the car, will insurance companies decide when you ought to drive or not and what sort of driving is safeenough for the would-be driver? Is the individual car - once the freedom engine of the American dream - on the cusp of turning into the most scrutinized space on earth, a sort of high-security cell keeping the driver on probation? Found guilty or suspicious of anything while in the cockpit? Boosted by their artificial intelligence, tomorrow’s data mining algorithms could well decide to lock you in and drive you to the nearest police station, be it for your own good or for the safety of others. TI’s TIDA-00292 biometric steering wheel reference design. www.electronics-eetimes.com Electronic Engineering Times Europe February 2016 15


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