Honda developing AI to detect cognitive impairment in drivers

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A Honda Motor Co. building

Honda Motor Co. will develop artificial intelligence technology to detect abnormalities in a driver’s physical condition by analyzing how the vehicle is traveling and any subtle changes in the driver.

The technology is expected to reduce accidents involving elderly drivers, which have become a social problem, and also to help detect dementia or glaucoma at an early stage. The automaker aims to put it to practical use around 2030.

Working with the National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology, Honda uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and sensors to analyze a driver’s brain and eye movements. The technology is designed to identify the cause of errors that lead to accidents, using a camera to detect the driver’s line of sight and warn them about overlooking pedestrians crossing streets.

By applying this technology, Honda will develop a function that signals a decline in cognitive function or spatial perception when its sensor detects the car veering or getting close to other vehicles. On top of this, Honda will combine AI with the sensor and camera to analyze the driver’s physical condition and any suspected illness.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

If a car detects a delay in a driver’s response to traffic lights, it will notify them that they may have narrow vision. Narrow vision is a common symptom of glaucoma, but the disease usually progresses slowly and is difficult to recognize. This function is aimed at notifying drivers of the risk of accidents and also serves as an opportunity for them to realize something is wrong before symptoms of the disease become obvious.

As one in four driver’s license holders are over 65 years old, reducing the number of accidents caused by older drivers has become an issue. The development of this technology could make drivers aware of a decline in their abilities, which may lead them to stop driving or surrender their licenses.

Automakers are storing and analyzing daily driving data to make use of it for safe driving, amid fierce competition to develop technologies.

Toyota Motor Corp. has equipped some of its models with an AI system that detects abnormalities by capturing a driver’s gaze, the direction of their face and how open their eyelids are. An alarm goes off or a seatbelt vibrates if the system detects the drivers looking away from the road or looking sleepy.

Mazda Motor Corp. has developed a system that uses a camera and sensor to detect drivers’ drowsiness and any sudden illness, and slow down or stop the vehicle if necessary. It aims to install the system in new models starting this year.

Honda’s new technology aims to detect anomalies much earlier.

“Various data is stored in cars, and we want to detect risks and make use of them for safety technology,” a Honda spokesperson said.