EPFL Emotion DetectionBecause road rage can cause accidents, PSA Peugeot Citroën and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) are developing a system that recognizes signs of anger and disgust in drivers, writes Grant Banks for GizMag. Technology already exists that reads facial expressions, with uses ranging from treating autism and depression to conducting market research and brand development, Banks writes. Such applications also include video game development and medicine, writes Anne-Muriel Brouet for Mediacom in an article appearing on EPFL.

When a driver is feeling irritated, he or she can become aggressive behind the wheel, and that can lead to car accidents, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports. NHTSA says driving too fast for road conditions, improper lane changing, tailgating, and improper passing are all signs of aggression. The agency reports that a large number of the 6,800,000 crashes that occur in the U.S. annually are caused by aggressive driving.

PSA Citroën and EPFL’s prototype tests show that the facial expression recognition technology could indeed work to make the roads safer, Brouet writes. Their system involves an infrared camera mounted behind a vehicle’s steering wheel. Lead researchers Hua Gao and Anil Yüce limited the tests to recognizing the emotions of anger and disgust, because different people express emotions differently, Brouet reports.

In the first phase of testing, their system learned to identify the two emotions by viewing photos of people expressing them, Brouet writes. In the second test phase, the system viewed videos of people expressing anger and disgust. The team then worked on developing ways to update the system in real time, such as “a self-taught human-machine interface, or a more advanced facial monitoring algorithm,” Brouet reports.

The researchers have also worked on measuring driver fatigue, based on how droopy a driver’s eyes were becoming, Brouet writes. As this blog has reported, drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. The PSA Citroën and EPFL team is also at work on ways their system can recognize driver distraction, and on lip-reading technology for use in voice recognition, Brouet writes.

Below the Gizmag article, a commenter named Diachi asks: “If the car decides I am in a bad mood what does it do about it?” Perhaps Diachi wasn’t satisfied with Banks’ last paragraph, in which he speculates about how this technology would be applied to make the roads safe from road rage and/or drowsy driving:

Could we, for example, hear a calming voice saying, ‘I’m not sure you should be doing that, Dave?’ or better still, a proximity sensor and speed limiter that kicks in to ensure you can’t tailgate no matter how much you want to, or maybe a friendly wake-up call if you’re starting to doze.

Or perhaps the system will automatically play some soft music. It has been shown to calm anger, as this blog has reported.

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