GM wants to patent a system that evaluates your mental well-being

General engines has filed a patent application for a technology that takes driver monitoring to a new level. The automaker outlined a system that analyzes driver behavior by reading data sent by onboard sensors — and can let the car take over if it detects unsafe behavior.

Filed November 2022 and published May 2024, the patent describes a system for assessing the mental well-being of a vehicle’s occupants and deploying countermeasures. The technology was developed by a subsidiary of General Motors GM Global Technology Operations, and aims to intervene when it detects that stress – regardless of where it comes from – could be affecting the driver’s ability to control the car.

What is considered unsafe behavior depends at least somewhat on how you drive. The system first records data points to create a profile of your driving behavior. It then uses this information as a basis to decide when you are driving erratically. For example, it detects your stop-start frequency hard brakes, hard acceleration, hard cornering and excessive honking. Existing technology makes some of these functions possible: the system knows whether you are following traffic signs, whether you are tailgating and how strongly you are holding the steering wheel.

The system can take several actions if it decides something is wrong, including asking the driver to perform “a mental health exercise,” calling a friend or family member or seeking therapy from a trained professional. It can even initiate a call to a “trained advisor” itself. Alternatively, it can use the on-board electronic driving aids to “autonomously control one or more of the vehicle’s driving functions.”

General Motors has not commented and has not revealed when (or even if) it plans to deploy this driver monitoring system. Please note that a patent application is not a guarantee that the technology it describes will see the light of day at the end of a production line. Toyota ever patented a “shape-shifting fuselage for an airplane” so far the new Landcruiser was revealed without wings or flight mode.

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