GM to deploy facial recognition in its semi-autonomous cruise control


Wow! The way corporations are deploying technology to reach their ends — It is so creative that I am sometimes reminded of poetry. We already know that General Motor’s (GM) upcoming smart cruise control system has been designed to allow drivers to remove their hands from the wheel while the car is driving. The company is now using facial recognition to ensure that they don’t take advantage of this facility to say, start operating their smartphones or catch a few Zzzs.

General Motors has recently sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, where it has made mention of the newest safety addition to the plethora of features it is bringing to its cars. So here is how it works: GM’s cruise control lets you take your hands off while driving for short durations so you can stretch, or just sit back and enjoy the ride.

However, questions were raised about what if the driver simply goes to sleep, or if his attention wanders. These systems are not intelligent enough to take you through every situation and require constant driver supervision. For now, GM required drivers to keep their hands on steering wheels however, with this latest facial recognition technique, they can put their hands behind their heads or in their laps — as long as they are paying attention to the roads.

In case the “Super Cruise” system notices that the driver is not paying attention to the road, it will signal a red visual alert, vibrate the seat and play a recorded message. If none of this works, the OnStar human-staffed driver assistance feature will be brought into action so as to facilitate a direct line of communication between the driver and a human staff — this is with the assumption that no one can possibly fall asleep in a moving car, upon a vibrating seat and hence, they must be experiencing some kind of medical emergency.

If none of this works — and even if the system feels that the road has gotten too tough to handle (its only semi-autonomous after all) — the car’s emergency hazard lights will be turned on and the system will automatically decelerate the car to a stop. Wow, I wonder if this tech could someday be used to prevent the car from starting or even driving to the nearest police station if someone breaks into the car.

Meanwhile, regulators have still some very valid questions. As NHTSA Chief Counsel Paul Hemmersbaugh wrote,

We note that GM indicates that when the driver is unable or unwilling to take control of the vehicle the system will bring the vehicle to a stop ‘in or near the roadway.

 We urge GM to fully consider the likely operation of the system it is contemplating and ensure that this fallback solution does not present an unreasonable risk to safety

Well, from the looks of things, the company may just need to remove the semi part before it can satisfy the regulators.

The Super Cruise systems are slated to be introduced sometime next year.

A bibliophile and a business enthusiast.

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