Maxim and ST Target Driver Monitoring Systems With Gestures and Eye Tracking
The past week has seen a variety of new driver monitoring system (DMS) technology being released to the industry, namely from ST and Maxim. Both of which take two vastly different approaches.
While current autonomous driving systems are becoming increasingly advanced, and tons of money is being poured into the field, even today’s best cars are far from full autonomy. Drivers are still expected to be alert and aware, ready to act should autonomous driving need intervention.
A high-level example of a driver monitoring system. Image used courtesy of Mitsubishi Electric
For this reason, a significant amount of effort in the autonomous vehicle industry is spent on the development of driver monitoring systems (DMS) to ensure the driver’s attention and focus. This subfield of autonomous driving, while less appealing, has been equally as hot.
In the past week alone, multiple companies have released new products to improve driver focus, each taking a unique approach.
This article will cover the different product releases, the methods each takes, and the pros and cons they might have.
ST Teams Up for Global Shutter
Earlier this week, STMicroelectronics announced its collaboration with Eyeris, a computer vision company focusing on DMS.
Block diagram of the VG5761. Image used courtesy of STMicroelectronics
Specifically, the collaboration will focus on applying ST’s global-shutter image sensor in-cabin while also employing computer vision and deep learning. This partnership will center around ST’s VG5761, a 2.3-megapixel global-shutter image sensor with a high linear dynamic range of 98 dB. The sensor also offers a low-noise 11-bit ADC along with an integrated image signal processing unit.
Eyeris, on the other hand, will be leveraging ST's hardware to employ in-cabin sensing technology, including eye-gaze tracking. This system will also utilize occupant monitoring systems like body key-point tracking and tracking occupant movements and orientation. On top of this, the companies believe their collaboration will allow for further in-cabin applications like child presence detection.
As this collaboration shows, camera-based DMS systems are often very versatile and can be very accurate. However, the downside with these is that they may struggle in certain ambient conditions (nighttime in particular) and are generally highly power-hungry.
Since camera-based systems do have those drawbacks, other ways of monitoring are being explored. One example comes from Maxim Integrated using optical sensors.
Gesture Sensing from Maxim Integrated
Maxim Integrated's recent approach to DMS includes gesture sensing. Though at first thought, gesture sensing can seem a bit strange to have in a vehicle, Maxim's concept has to do with the idea of having a touch-free way to interact with the vehicle, thus hopefully reducing distracted driving by interacting with screens.
System block diagram including the MAX25405. Image used courtesy of Maxim Integrated
To this end, the company released its new MAX25405, a new generation of infrared-based dynamic optical sensors meant specifically for gesture sensing. Internally, the new IC integrates a complete optical system including a lens, aperture, visible light filter, and a 6x10 photodetector array.
According to Maxim, this new IC improves performance and doubles the proximity and distance of sensing applications compared to previous generations, all while claiming to be 75% smaller than other time-of-flight-based solutions.
One initial drawback noticed from the datasheet is how the MAX25405 isn't a particularly low power solution, with LED driving currents reaching up to 200 mA @ 1.8 V. Depending on the system's overall design, this could be an essential factor.
While gesture sensing may represent an improvement for driver focus over conventional touch controls, any gesture sensing will likely require the driver's hand to be off the wheel. A couple of possible suggestions for better solutions may be a sophisticated voice control system or more intuitive, on-wheel controls.
The Other Side of Autonomous Driving
A less talked about but significant focus in autonomous driving systems is ensuring driver focus. Although only highlighting two types in this article, many different techniques are being taken to improve driver focus, each with its own pros and cons.
With such a strong industry focus, there are sure to be more components and new system ideas coming out more and more as 2021 enters its second half.
Interested in other DMS and autonomous driving solutions? Find out more in the articles down below.