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Performance car brand, Abarth, has become the first manufacturer to trial facial recognition technology to better understand the emotions experienced when in its car. The trial, which is in partnership with Loughborough University, saw drivers participate in events to measure their excitement and, in some cases, fear.
Driving an Abarth F595, 595 Esseesse and 595 Competizione, participants were put through a number of driving challenges.
These included hot laps, precision driving tasks, and chase scenarios at Mallory Park, Leicestershire.
Emotions including happiness, excitement, and fear were then measured as passengers were driven by professional drivers.
The results showed the most prominent feeling during a hot lap was happiness, both when behind the wheel (31.8 percent) and as a passenger (35.4 percent).
When driven by professional drivers who pushed the car to its full potential, participants experienced short bursts of fear and shock (11.9 percent), contributing to a thrilling track day experience.
State-of-the-art facial recognition technology was used alongside heart rate sensors – Electrocardiogram (ECG) and Photoplethysmography (PPG).
The data was then analysed using DeepFace Python library and Facial Emotion Recognition library.
This allowed the Italian car manufacturer to accurately detect an array of emotions among individuals.
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Greg Taylor, Fiat and Abarth, UK Managing Director, praised the technology, saying it would help the brand make its vehicles more exciting.
He said: “We always knew anecdotally that the levels of joy our cars bring to the driver and passengers, but now we have some preliminary data from one of the world’s leading sport universities to back that up.
“Our products are not only designed to excite drivers on the road, but they’re also perfect track day cars too.”
Dr Dale Esliger at Loughborough University, Reader in Digital Health, led the trial alongside the Abarth team.
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He said: “The constellation of biometric equipment that we used allowed us to accurately detect an array of emotions that were experienced when drivers and passengers get into an Abarth, while detecting the most prominent emotion during the respective driving activities.
“Research within this remit is limited, however, I suspect it will be an area within the automotive industry that will continue to be explored, as manufacturers strive to improve the driving experiences of their cars.”
While Abarth is the first brand to test facial recognition technology, other brands are beginning to implement it as well.
The Genesis GV60 is a luxury electric car which is set to make use of “Face Connect”.
This will recognise the driver’s face to control the door lock, seat, steering wheel, side mirrors and infotainment.
According to the brand, Face Connect can register up to two faces for each vehicle, and new profiles can be registered conveniently using voice assistant.
Registered faces are encrypted and safely stored in the vehicle without security risk, and can be deleted any time at the driver’s convenience.
The technology will even “liberate” drivers from the need to carry keys with them all the time. If a driver leaves their smart key in the car, the vehicle can be locked using the face recognition system.
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