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Detection of Phone Use while Driving

A method proposed to reduce car accidents due to phone use while driving. The Internet is everywhere, even in the car while driving. The same is true for our availability; at times, it appears we need to be available anytime, anywhere. This works against all safety guidelines when operating a motor vehicle. Drivers are texting, checking Facebook, having a call, etc. while driving. This is a serious problem as distracted driving is the number one cause of accidents in the USA. While using the phone, drivers put the operation of the motor vehicle as a second priority. FLIR Systems’ infrared (IR) cameras can be integrated in the driver’s compartment of a motor vehicle. This camera will detect smart phone or other electronic device use close to the driver. An alert can then be provided or record made for law enforcement or insurance claims.
Problem Solved
Texting and calling while operating a motor vehicle is a problem worldwide as distracted driving is a major cause of accidents. Studies suggest that talking on the phone while driving, even hands-free, is as bad as or worse than driving while intoxicated. In 2013, the National Safety Council estimates that 21 percent of crashes involve talking on hand-held and hands-free cell phones and an additional 6 percent or more involve text messaging (http://www.nsc.org/DistractedDrivingDocuments/CPK/Attributable-Risk-Summary.pdf). Meanwhile, the usage of cell phones and our availability due to mobile Internet is further increased.
Description of Solution
An infrared (IR) based camera system integrated into a motor vehicle can provide deterrent and lower the phone use while driving. The camera detects heated objects next to or on the driver and provides an alarm / event when the driver is not giving enough attention to the road. The operating system can also make a record of phone use for insurance and legal records.
Both human and mobile devices (due to their battery and screen) emit heat, making it possible for an infrared camera embedded system to identify both. The system distinguishes between humans, mobile devices, and the surrounding or background. Using peak intensities in the image, learned foreground/ background segmentation methods, etc. the infrared system can identify and evaluate phone use. When the system identifies a mobile device being used, an alarm / event or a record of the activity can be initiated.


Figure 1: Position of the camera at the rear-view mirror.

Position of the camera:
When positioned at the rear-view mirror, a camera is in a perfect location to have an overview of the driver’s seat (see Figure 1). No objects should ever be installed between the driver seat and the rear-view mirror, making it possible to guarantee that the camera will always see the driver. The smaller FLIR Systems camera can be integrated into the rear-view mirror itself.
Alternatively, a visual camera could be used (located in the same position within the rear-view mirror). Using eye-tracking software, this visual camera should be able to detect whether or not the driver is giving enough attention to the road and the mirrors. When the driver is using a mobile device instead of paying attention to the road, the camera system can trigger an alarm / event or make a record of the activity.


By Martin Withouck
Marke, Belgium