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Veoneer: Tackling Automation Anxiety

by Roger Lanctot | Jan 12, 2020

Veoneer’s booth at CES 2020 may have been located in a parking lot at the far end of South Hall but attendees that made the journey to the mini-Smart City in the Platinum Lot were rewarded with one of the most compelling concepts for automated driving. Judging from the fully booked schedule of demos, it appears that many did, indeed, make the journey.

The demonstration space included descriptions of work on applications focused on driver behavior and emotional state in the context of automated driving. It was here that I saw the most compelling concept out of all the conversations and demonstrations I had at CES.

First of all, to understand Veoneer it is important to appreciate that the company was a spinoff of airbag market leader Autoliv. Autoliv's passive safety DNA is reflected in Veoneer' s emphasis on active safety technology. Autoliv will help you survive a crash. Veoneer will help you avoid a crash. At the same time, Veoneer is helping its customers evolve toward automated driving.

Veoneer was touting its third generation learning intelligent vehicle (LIV) at CES. The focus of LIV is to increase collaboration and trust between the driver and the vehicle.

The company is clearly targeting the widely reported consumer anxiety and trepidation associated with autonomous vehicles. To achieve its goals, Veoneer is collaborating itself with suppliers including Seeing Machines, Affectiva, Ericsson, Verizon, Zenuity, and others to better understand driving behavior and decision making. The company set up a private 5G network for its Smart City demonstrations.

A year earlier, at CES 2019, companies such as Ambarella and Affectiva introduced the concept of assessing the emotional state of drivers. Veoneer showed how it is analyzing driver behavior before, during, and after driving to better understand how that emotional state evolves within each moment and over time – and how driving conditions or even time of day or day of week can effect the driver’s emotional state.

The goal, again, is to set the stage for collaboration between the driver and increasingly automated driving systems. Three sample applications demonstrated by Veoneer included night driving – assisted by thermal sensors; a 5G-enabled control tower function – to aid in navigating around unexpected obstacles; and a valet parking application capable of avoiding obstacles on the way to a parking space.

But the one application that really made the trip to the Platinum Lot worthwhile – the one use case that surpassed all other demonstrations of intelligent assistants and 5G and flying cars – the singular scene-stealer of CES 2020 – was Veoneer’s description of an application – still in development – designed to alert drivers to elements surrounding the car that the driver has not seen. In other words, Veoneer showed an application fusing external sensors with internal driver monitoring sensors in order to identify external objects that the driver most likely had overlooked.

This is precisely the kind of collaboration drivers are looking for in their embedded vehicle systems. The Veoneer concept combines driver monitoring – still in its early stages – by tracking eye gaze and head positioning to determine the likelihood that a driver had perceived an external source of imminent danger.

The Veoneer concept is suitable for a wide range of applications integrating as it must blind spot detection, backup camera monitoring, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, with the state of the driver. I can think of so many instances where I think I have checked a rearview mirror or looked over my shoulder, but circumstances have changed since my last glance. In such instances the vehicle system can assist.

More importantly, my favorite driving bugaboo – the right turn at a two-way stop sign – where the driver is tempted to look left and neglect to look right. It is quite common for drivers in such circumstances to overlook pedestrians at the corner or that have are already proceeding into the intersection.

Or, maybe, the driver is simply daydreaming and in danger of proceeding through a light or stop sign that has been overlooked. There is no doubt that Veoneer will have its work cut out trying to deliver this sensor fusion concept in a manner that is pleasing and, more importantly, life-saving. But the concept of alerting drivers to external circumstances that the driver monitoring system is capable of determining has been overlooked or misapprehended by the driver was a winner. 

The solution was a clear demonstration of Veoneer’s focus on redefining the possible and leveraging available technologies to create an entirely new driving experience. It is that kind of creativity that will be required to deliver the kind of automated driving so many car companies and developers are working so hard to achieve.  Veoneer is showing how man and machine can work together while the company is also laboring to understand how to break down the levels of anxiety associated with that coming collaboration. Kudos to Veoneer for thinking beyond the box.  

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