Eyesight Technologies Will Watch You Drive, and That's a Good Thing

The Israeli computer-vision company will keep you safe in a palatable way—by also making the drive more pleasant

2 min read
A woman behind the wheel of a car looking at a smartphone
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An alarming spike in traffic deaths on U.S. roads has been blamed on app-addled drivers, and computer vision firms say they have a remedy: They’ll save us from ourselves by assessing our alertness, mostly by figuring out which way we’re looking.

To stand out from the herd, Eyesight Technologies, of Herzilya, Israel, is touting its product as doing that and more besides.

“We don’t just look at the driver’s gaze, but also at his gestures,” says Iain Levy, head of the decade-old embedded vision company’s new automotive division. 

“Voices may differ between users and accents,” he adds, “but gesture is very natural. And as we move to higher levels of vehicle autonomy, gestures become even more interesting‚ as you have time to do more things than just drive the car.” Even so, the company is collaborating with a voice-recognition firm in order to allow oral communication as well.

The only hardware requirements are a camera and an infrared lamp. That way, no matter how bright it may be outside, the system can still track the driver’s eyelids, his iris, and the tilting of his head.

Here’s how the various functions might work together:

The software—based on deep neural networks—estimates the driver’s age and gender, the better to position the seat, air conditioner, and rear-view mirror. And, with a wide field-of-view camera to scan the entire cabin, the system could even make sure that no child gets inadvertently left behind.

Because safety alone may be a hard sell, particularly for a feature that smacks of Big Brother, the company is selling convenience also. For instance, drivers can give a thumbs-up to “like” a roadside attraction or to control the phone.

Such manipulations were the company’s original focus in the apps it designed for smart phones and smart homes. Its product Singlecue lets you control household appliances by waving a finger in the air. Eyesight Technologies is also working on a robotics home-care system for elderly people. It’s conducting that research together with Kuang-Chi, a technology conglomerate in Shenzhen, China that recently invested US $20 million in the Israeli company.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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