Canadian Manufacturing

Mitacs research program enabling advanced mfg. development

by CM Staff   

Human Resources Manufacturing Operations Research & Development Technology / IIoT Automotive Transportation advanced manufacturing human resources Manufacturing Research Technology


The goal is to advance Level 3 autonomous driving, a level where drivers can legally take their eyes off of the road under certain conditions and focus on other tasks instead.

Mangotra is working under the guidance of Professor Soodeh Nikan in Western University’s Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering to advance the technology, which uses eye pupil measurements and changes in facial expression and skin colour to detect a driver’s current state, including their mental load, their emotion and their overall well-being.

LONDON — All drivers know the importance of keeping your eyes on the road. Now, a research team at the Western University is demonstrating that in the emerging world of self-driving cars, it’s just as important for the road — in other words, your car — to keep its eyes on you. And this summer, they’re tapping into the knowledge of a student from India to advance their technology, a simple in-vehicle camera that can detect a driver’s general state of being as well as their gaze.

Harshita Mangotra, an undergraduate student in electronics and communication engineering at Indira Gandhi Delhi Technical University for Women, is one of 651 international students in Ontario this summer – and 2,220 across Canada – who are helping to solve tough innovation challenges through a unique initiative called the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship program.

Mangotra is working under the guidance of Professor Soodeh Nikan in Western University’s Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering to advance the technology, which uses eye pupil measurements and changes in facial expression and skin colour to detect a driver’s current state, including their mental load, their emotion and their overall well-being. The goal is to advance Level 3 autonomous driving, a level where drivers can legally take their eyes off of the road under certain conditions and focus on other tasks instead, such as using a laptop or tablet, or eating with both hands.

“The more control the automated system has, the more freedom the driver is given,” explained Nikan, noting that though rare, Level 3 cars are starting to appear in California and Japan, and are expected to continue to gain momentum. “Yet, when the car encounters something unexpected, it will still alert the driver to intervene and our goal is to make sure the driver is in the right state to resume that control when it does happen,” she added.

Cameras currently used in Level 2 self-driving cars monitor a driver’s visual attention only. If their gaze veers off the road for too long, the car alerts them to put their hands back on the steering wheel.

The Western University technology is different because it is the first to use a simple camera to monitor pupil size and facial changes as indicators that a driver is under stress, angry, has high blood pressure or is too distracted to concentrate, and is therefore not able to safely resume driving. “If the cognitive load of the driver is high, for example, it means they are incapable of correctly analyzing the unexpected situation that caused their self-driving car to alarm in the first place, and that means either the automated system should either maintain control, perform a safe, emergency stop, or call 911 depending on the situation,” explained Nikan.

In total, 2,220 students from 15 countries are taking part in the Mitacs Globalink program this summer to help solve complex problems across a range of industry sectors, from health and wellness, to robotics, technology and the environment. Designed to foster international research links and boost Canada’s economy, the 12-week internships are available at more than 70 universities.

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