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Seeing Machines technology in demand from crash-proof car makers

In future, cars will be watching their drivers more closely than any police highway patrol officer.

Cars will have a safety brain that can look at their driver's eyes and assess their ability to handle whatever is happening outside of the moving vehicle.

Crash-proof cars coming closer to production will integrate technology conceived at the ANU, Canberra, and now commercialised throughout the world by the spin-off company Seeing Machines.

Seeing Machines uses smart cameras and algorithms to track drivers' face, eyes and eyelids to monitor their attention and alertness levels in real time.

Seeing Machines chief executive Ken Kroeger says the company has 160 people, including 23 engineers, working on crash-proof car technology, and cannot meet all the requests from car manufacturers.

In the United States, a car is coming to market later this year that will allow its driver to take their hands off the wheel. The car will watch the driver to make sure he can take control of the vehicle if needed.


"Thirteen car companies are paying us to do something, to go to the next stages of autonomy," Mr Kroeger says.

"Two years from now, the car will be smart enough in what it knows about what is happening outside the car, and smart enough to know what the driver is capable of doing through all sorts of technologies."

Seeing Machines is working with Samsung converting a windscreen into a transparent television screen. The road scene in the picture is from another television in front of the car.

Still five or six years away from production, the technology will enable drivers to operate icons on the screen with their eyes, to access a phone and contacts and other devices.

Seeing Machines' technology is being integrated with other innovations in a central safety brain in the car of the future.

Mr Kroeger says it is this integration into newly available, advanced driver assistance systems that will make a difference.

"Imagine a world where your car knows how able, or available, you are to properly operate your vehicle, and automatically compensates by seamlessly taking away and handing back control to you on a continual basis, without you even knowing that it's happening," he said.

Mr Kroeger hopes that within the next five years the Australasian New Car Assessment Program's safety rating and the Australian Government will consider mandating crash-proof technology, as is happening now in Europe.

He expects technology will become crucial in future in allowing older drivers to continue to driving into old age. "Now my mother should not be driving, but in three years time I won't be so worried about her driving," he said.