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Hyundai concept pushes mood altering cockpit

Sensors located throughout the cabin monitor physical and mental state

Published: January 4, 2017, 9:30 PM
Updated: January 8, 2017, 4:12 AM

Hyundai Health and Mobility Cockpit concept

With the focus of the auto industry mostly on autonomous driving, which is still four or five years away, Hyundai is turning its attention to the health-conscious technology that is likely closer to market.

The idea is that if drivers, and sometimes passengers, are going to spend so much time in their vehicles, they may as well be comfortable both physically and mentally. The company’s “Health & Mobility Cockpit” is an interior concept that monitors health and related indicators to help manage driving stress and other negative effects of driving.

You know those sensors on the outside of the car that help it squeeze into tight parking spots or alert you to things in your blind spot, well the concept cockpit has sensors strategically placed around the cabin to monitor the physical and mental state of the driver by analyzing posture, breathing rate and depth, heart rate, eye tracking and facial recognition (to sense alertness and emotion, respectively).

“For many the daily commute leads to stress, frustration, and the feeling of wasted time,” says John Suh, Head of Hyundai Ventures. “In addition to automating the driving task, technology can also be used to shift a driver’s state of mind by creating conditions that cultivate a safer and healthier mental state, boosting their focus or helping them relax while traveling so that drivers might be less fatigued when arriving at their destination.”

After analyzing the driver’s state, sensory “mood bursts” would be used to create a variety of physical and mental responses. For example, if eye tracking detects the driver may be losing concentration, the vehicle may trigger an “alert” burst or if breathing and heart rate sensors indicate a rise in stress, a “calm” burst may be triggered.

The idea is to “nudge” the system back to neutral with a short, distinct, contrasting moment, rather than prolonged environmental change that could just sway moods in the opposite, counter direction.

Mood bursts would take the form of one or more actions. For example, if the driver seems to be losing alertness, the driver’s seat could automatically adjust, or if fidgetiness indicates a lack of comfort, the seat could automatically trigger lumbar adjustments or even start the seat massage feature, if it’s available.

Scents would also be used for certain bursts — lavender to calm stress, or peppermint to promote alertness — as would light (more intensity to counter drowsiness, or a softer ambient colour for calmness), sound (increased levels to raise alertness, or changing to soothing music or nature sounds to relieve stress) and temperature (cooler environments tend to ward off sleep, for example).

An finally, connectivity would also be part of the new cockpit environment, allowing the user to create playlists to help pass time, for example, connect to others outside the car via hands-free connections, record thoughts or ideas with a gesture, or even create checklists to alleviate stress by keeping schedules on track.