Control a car's features with a glance? Not science fiction

Delphi Will Introduce New Eye Glance Technology At CES

Eye-tracking technology installed in vehicles already allows cars to sense when their drivers are distracted or drowsy and deliver alerts to ensure motorists keep their eyes on the road. One supplier is taking the next step with this fledgling tech.

Delphi Automotive is developing a system through which drivers can control some in-car features with a simple glance of their eyes. Using two infrared cameras embedded in the dash, Delphi can track the eye movements of a driver and precisely determine what feature or on-screen icon they're looking at on a center stack or touchscreen. Controlling objects with a stare might seem like the stuff of science fiction -- think Stephen King's "Carrie" -- but it may soon be within the realm of mainstream drivers.

The global supplier will showcase the new technology at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, using a Porsche Macan to demonstrate how it works. Though it's not yet production ready, the Eye Glance technology shows how future motorists might enjoy a more seamless experience with their infotainment systems while minimizing the time they're focus drifts from the road.

Watch the video above, and you'll see a behind-the-scenes overview of Eye Glance. Delphi engineer Mark Kady offers a behind-the-scenes overview on how the technology joins in complementary fashion with voice controls and gestures to provide motorists with command of their infotainment features. With Eye Glance, drivers could change the radio station or use climate controls without ever touching a thing.

The technology holds much promise, because – let's face it – most infotainment systems aren't very good. Drivers complain they can be hard to use and cumbersome. Worse yet, as drivers fumble around trying to find the right button to press on a touchscreen, they distract drivers' eyes from the road. With something far more intuitive, Delphi believes those distractions can be minimized, and as a result, those glances can actually be used to improve safety.

"Current infotainment solutions are complex and the first thing customers complain about," Delphi chief technology officer Jeff Owens said. "We are all frustrated. ... We often find ourselves gazing at the controls in the center stack for far too long."

Of course, adding more cameras and infotainment improvements requires more processing power. Delphi says the system runs on a controller that's 16-times faster than those in production for current infotainment systems. With more companies adding processing power to speed everything from real-time safety systems to semi-autonomous features, that computing power requirement may not be as big a hurdle as it seems.

And with cameras already installed in many cars to monitor eye movements for distractions and drowsiness, adding functionality helps cement the arrival and importance of these new systems.

Eye Glance is being developed at the company's technical center in Kokomo, Indiana.

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