Driver tracking and posture detection using low-resolution infrared sensing

Intelligent sensors are playing an ever-increasing role in automotive safety. This paper describes the development of a low-resolution infrared (IR) imaging system for continuous tracking and identification of driver postures and movements. The resolution of the imager is unusually low at 16 x 16 pixels. An image processing technique has been developed using neural networks operating on a segmented thermographic image to categorize driver postures. The system is able reliably to identify 18 different driver positions, and results have been verified experimentally with 20 subjects driving in a car simulator. IR imaging offers several advantages over visual sensors; it will operate in any lighting conditions and is less intrusive in terms of the privacy of the occupants. Hardware costs for the low-resolution sensor are an order of magnitude lower than those of conventional IR imaging systems. The system has been shown to have the potential to play a significant role in future intelligent safety systems.