Federal-Mogul (federalmogul.com) has gone well beyond the Clapper for its new high-efficiency LED interior light. Rather than requiring a clap for activation, it simply requires the wave of your hand. A capacitive proximity sensor is integrated into the LED so that the conductivity of a person’s hand can be detected. As your extremity enters the area of the light, the switch is triggered by a change in capacitance caused by the conductivity of iron in a person’s blood. This sensitivity range can be altered, from 0 to 80 mm, depending on personal preference. And unlike competing technologies, such as infrared proximity sensors, this one works even if you’re wearing gloves. The first application the company plans to bring to market is a dome lamp for an overhead console.
Along with the BMW Group, researchers at Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM; tum.de) have developed a sensor system that’s integrated into the steering wheel to monitor things like heart rate, stress level, and oxygen saturation in the blood. The data are then shown on the car’s display console. “Our vision is to get the vehicle to detect when the driver is no longer feeling well and to initiate appropriate measures,” says Tim C. Lueth, TUM professor. This could include blocking phone calls or turning the radio volume down when stressful situations are detected. “With more serious problems the system could turn on the hazard warning lights, reduce the speed, or even induce automated emergency braking.”
Researchers at the Polytechnic School (polymtl.ca/en) in Montreal, Canada, have developed soft polymer-based smart fibers with electrical properties to control different elements in your vehicle based on where you touch. One possible application: a haptic interface for the control of everything from the HVAC system to audio, all woven into a seat. To develop the fiber, the researchers roll conducting and insulating polymer films around a copper wire to create a 2 cm-wide cylindrical capacitor. The cylinder is heated to 200ºC and stretched until it is a soft elastic fiber 0.9 mm in diameter. To prove that it could be turned into a usable fabric, the fibers were woven into a 10 x 15-cm piece of material. This was then attached to a device that permitted software to track where the material was touched so as to activate the control of different features. The fibers, which were based on the idea of a smartphone touch screen, could reduce the number of control buttons on the center stack. And for drivers whose cars double as their dining room, have no fear, the durable fiber can easily be cleaned.
Security systems that use body parts to identify a person are nothing new. There are systems that recognize fingerprints, eyes, faces, and now posteriors. Yes, derriere recognition. A biometric anti-theft driver’s seat, which uses the shape of a back side to identify a car’s owner, has been developed by engineers at the Tokyo’s Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology (aiit.ac.jp/english). The seat is packed with 360 sensors that measure pressure to create a 3D image of a posterior, which is used as a personal identifier. Engineers say the seat will analyze anyone who gets behind the wheel and if it detects it doesn’t match the digital model, the car won’t start. Engineers say that during testing, the seat was able to identify six different testers with 98% accuracy. They hope to bring the anti-theft seat to market within the next three years.