Many AV safety systems fail to address the true causes of accidents, like driver fatigue or health conditions, because they use only one standard to measure physiological status of drivers.  AV user interfaces (UIs) are currently experiencing rapid advancement. To successfully patent these innovations requires depicting novel layouts and interactions that are context-aware.

In today’s rapidly advancing technological landscape, one area that has garnered significant attention and innovation is the development of autonomous vehicles. These cutting-edge machines are poised to reshape transportation and revolutionize industries. However, with innovation comes responsibility, and one of the foremost concerns in the domain of autonomous vehicles is driver fatigue. The relentless pursuit of enhancing driver fatigue monitoring systems is not only a necessity but also a fascinating journey through technological innovation, human-machine interaction, and patent-worthy breakthroughs.

Understanding Driver Fatigue in Autonomous Vehicles

Before diving into the innovations, it’s imperative to grasp the concept of driver fatigue in autonomous vehicles. Unlike traditional driving, where humans are actively involved in every aspect of driving, autonomous vehicles require less direct input from the operator. This reduced engagement can lead to various types of driver fatigue, such as cognitive, visual, and physical fatigue. Cognitive fatigue, for instance, is often a result of long hours of monotonous driving, where the human operator may become inattentive and slow to react. Recognizing and mitigating these forms of fatigue is crucial to ensure the safety and efficiency of autonomous vehicles.

The Evolution of Driver Fatigue Monitoring

Over the years, driver fatigue monitoring systems have evolved significantly, thanks to technological innovations. Early systems primarily relied on simple sensors and manual inputs from drivers. Today, they incorporate a range of high-tech solutions that utilize artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced sensors.

1. Advanced Camera-Based Monitoring

In the modern era of autonomous vehicles, camera-based monitoring systems have become indispensable. These cameras capture a wide array of data, including facial expressions, eye movements, head posture, and even vital signs like heart rate and respiration. Deep learning algorithms analyze this data to detect signs of fatigue, distraction, or impaired alertness. Such systems are not only capable of recognizing drowsiness but can also provide valuable insights into the driver’s overall state.

2. Biometric Sensors

Innovations in biometric sensors are another exciting development in driver fatigue monitoring. Wearable and vehicle-integrated sensors can measure physiological indicators like skin conductance, temperature, and heart rate variability. By continuously monitoring these biometric parameters, algorithms can detect deviations from the driver’s baseline and alert the driver or even initiate safety protocols in autonomous vehicles.

3. Steering and Lane Monitoring

Steering and lane monitoring systems have advanced beyond mere lane-keeping assistance. They now involve continuous analysis of a driver’s steering behavior and lane deviation patterns. These systems can discern subtle signs of drowsiness or inattention by analyzing irregularities in steering inputs and lane-keeping performance. Innovations in this area are helping to keep drivers engaged and responsive.

4. Smart Wearables

The development of smart wearables, such as smartwatches or glasses, has expanded the possibilities for driver fatigue monitoring. These devices are equipped with sensors and connectivity features that can sync with the vehicle’s systems. If the wearable detects signs of fatigue, it can communicate directly with the vehicle to engage safety mechanisms like autonomous driving or alert the driver to take action.

Patenting Process and Strategies

In the realm of autonomous vehicles and driver fatigue monitoring, protecting your innovations through patents is crucial. The patenting process can be complex, but with the right strategies and expert guidance, it becomes an essential tool to secure your intellectual property. In this section, we will explore the steps involved in patenting an innovation, how to determine patent eligibility and conduct prior art searches, strategies for drafting a strong patent application, and the pivotal role of patent attorneys and experts.

Determining patent eligibility and prior art searches

Patent Eligibility:

Determine whether your innovation is eligible for patent protection. It must be novel, non-obvious, and have a specific, practical application. Consulting a patent attorney is advisable at this stage.

Prior Art Searches:

Conduct a thorough search for prior art, including published patents, academic literature, and existing technology. Online patent databases and professional search services can help uncover similar inventions.

Analyze Search Results:

Carefully review the results of your prior art search to assess the novelty and non-obviousness of your innovation. If relevant prior art is found, consider modifying your innovation to make it more unique.

Strategies for drafting a strong patent application

  1. Clear and Precise Language: Use clear and precise language in your patent application. A strong, detailed description is essential to help the patent office understand the innovation.
  2. Detailed Drawings: Accompany your application with detailed drawings or diagrams that illustrate the innovation’s components and operation.
  3. Comprehensive Claims: Craft comprehensive and well-structured claims that define the boundaries of your invention. The claims should be clear and closely aligned with the innovation’s unique aspects.
  4. Consider Continuation Applications: In some cases, filing continuation applications to cover variations or improvements of your innovation can be a valuable strategy to protect your intellectual property further.

Monitoring systems

In-Cabin Monitoring System

As autonomous vehicle use cases expand, new applications require robust cabin monitoring. For instance, public transport systems that only carry passengers (e.g. metros, trains and shuttles) require monitoring their occupants for security purposes. Also expected to become increasingly prevalent are Level 4 and 5 autonomous cars without drivers – providing freedom, luxury and stress reduction during daily commutes. Here the cabin sensor must recognize occupants in order to provide tailored comfort features like wheel and seat position modification as well as personalized music or apps on an infotainment system.

Current driver monitoring systems use image sensors to detect the presence of drivers, assess their engagement with their vehicle and its controls, and send signals back to an ADAS control unit for action to be taken. Although these systems are sometimes known as driver monitoring systems (DMS), they’re actually more accurately termed occupant monitoring systems (OMS). They have evolved beyond safety and security uses into child/pet detection, seat belt usage monitoring and airbag deployment as solutions focused on individuals rather than vehicles and drivers.

viisight’s in-cabin monitoring system goes beyond traditional DMS by employing a 3D camera which creates a fully filtered and analysed volumetric image of the cabin using voxels to represent objects and occupants. This allows viisight’s system to identify drivers, evaluate head and eye movement, determine posture and status, as well as whether or not distraction or sleepiness exist, determine autonomous mode status or not and detect when vehicles have entered such modes.

Additionally, Vital Sign Monitoring (VSM) allows DMS systems to track drivers’ health and stress levels. VSM measures electrocardiogram (ECG) or electrodermal activity (EDA – skin impedance), which can indicate when fatigue or distraction has taken over control of the vehicle and has caused them to lose control. ADI’s AD8232W sensor family provides high precision amplifiers for ECG and EDA measurements – making it an excellent platform for VSM applications such as this.

Optical Monitoring System

With the increase in equipment disaggregation in network cores and fiber density at edges, optical monitoring becomes ever more vital – particularly for next-generation optical transport networks. Optical Monitoring Systems (OMSs) provide continuous physical layer monitoring which allows network managers to detect problems like accidental fiber cuts, malicious tampering or general equipment failures more quickly. They also give them real-time insight into their network as whole which allows for quality of service end-to-end assurance as well as prompt, accurate information in case there are issues in an instantaneous manner should an issue arises.

Utilizing an innovative distributed monitoring approach, OMS allows for seamless installation in-line with live optical telemetry links and backup fibers without impacting performance. Operation is simple through an HMI-like graphical user interface (GUI) on either an attached monitor or remotely via Ethernet connection; additionally a front panel LED display shows status warnings and alarms; finally it can also be powered off to prevent disruption to data links.

OMS can easily be integrated into existing deposition processes with minimal modifications needed. By directly monitoring substrate or indirectly monitoring witness chip thicknesses, the OMS can be programmed to end deposition cycles at the desired optical thickness for maximum production yield and production yield. Furthermore, Integrity control system integration enables real-time monitor-to-work ratio monitoring as well as index verification verification.

This advanced technology helps reduce coating test runs by producing thin films that meet original design specifications. Utilizing index dispersion enhancement, this system automatically monitors and adjusts deposition rate to achieve ideal film quality, cutting costs and increasing overall coating productivity by decreasing pre-coating test runs.

Veeco Instruments’ OMS uses cutting-edge optics and computing power to deliver an innovative way of monitoring optical coating deposition processes distributed over an area network. Based on a SQL database, users can easily configure and run the system from any PC connected to that same network; additionally, OMS stores all run and setup data so it can be accessed at any time without returning back to its originator machine.

 In-Cabin Occupant Detection System

With the increasing demand for autonomous public transport that only transports passengers (robo-taxis, trams, metros), it is increasingly critical to ensure in-cabin occupant safety, vehicle protection against inappropriate occupant behavior and external threats – creating new challenges which necessitate a multifaceted in-cabin monitoring system complementing existing autonomous driving & monitoring systems while opening up complex artificial intelligence possibilities in vehicle cabins.

Valeo’s 3D imaging systems provide an effective in-cabin sensor solution, giving an unobstructed view of the vehicle cabin to enable accurate identification of various situations and objects inside it. Seat occupancy detection as well as whether or not passengers are wearing seat belts is also easily accomplished with this type of system. Unattended children detection has gained great interest as an added layer of safety that alerts drivers if they forget a child behind in the back – an issue increasingly becoming relevant with child deaths from heat stroke becoming a concern.

Valeo’s Life Presence Detection solution uses interior radar and AI algorithms to recognize occupants such as children or pets regardless of visual obstructions such as blankets or clothing; an important criteria used by Euro NCAP and other safety rating bodies. This includes dangerous tools or weapons like screwdrivers, knives, baseball bats or smoking people in the front seat. Furthermore, this feature of Valeo’s solution utilizes interior radar for early warning of objects which might pose threats such as screwdrivers, knives or weapons as well as smoking persons in front seats or the driver themselves – such as screwdrivers/weapons/weapon detection uses interior radar and AI algorithms to recognize presence occupants regardless of visual obstruction such as blankets/clothing etc; making this feature essential in Euro NCAP ratings bodies’ ratings processes.

Food, beverages and litter that could obstruct or block vehicle controls is another key safety feature. This feature is especially important in shared vehicles where careless eating or drinking by other occupants may spill or spill onto other seats and cause serious safety concerns.

Sensors can detect driver drowsiness or fatigue and warn them to take a break or pull over immediately in case of medical emergency. In addition, sensors can check breath and heart rate levels to detect certain medical conditions that require treatment as well as providing biometric authentication of identity based on physical characteristics such as fingerprints or palm prints.

In-Cabin Occupant Detection Method

Automakers and Tier One suppliers are exploring innovative methods of detecting vehicle occupants within their cabin, using radar sensors to monitor passengers as well as objects inside. Furthermore, these radar sensors help assess driver engagement levels as well as distraction levels.

Unattended Child Detection Technology has attracted significant attention in recent months. Based on mmWave radar, this feature is intended to be installed out-of-sight above the headliner in vehicles and can detect movement inside even after drivers have exited, providing an alerting function which alerts parents or guardians when unattended children have been left in hot vehicles and helps mitigate risks such as heatstroke death that often arise from such scenarios.

Other sensor innovations for in-cabin sensors include OMS and DOS systems based largely on image sensors to assess driver engagement, fatigue and drowsiness using machine vision processing. Furthermore, these ADAS technologies can also monitor seat belt usage, airbag deployment and alert drivers of passenger movement in the back seat.

However, these systems have their limitations: for example capturing detailed faces requires high quality images with precise resolution and privacy issues related to facial reidentification can arise during abnormal situations or evidence collection. Valeo’s in-cabin occupant recognition technology offers an efficient and more reliable solution than similar systems available today.

Alongside these safety features, we are also seeing an increasing need for in-cabin sensor solutions that can identify foreign objects like bottles, bags, cups, food and beverages and any other objects that could obstruct vehicle controls or cause fire hazards in shared vehicles – an indispensable requirement for safe and reliable implementation of level 4 and beyond autonomous vehicles (AVs).

As automakers and consumers increasingly prioritize adding these sensors as standard equipment in their vehicles, the demand for such sensors will only continue to increase. A recent IHS Markit study indicates that occupant monitoring technology is one of the fastest growing automotive tech categories.