Cabin sensing platform combines radar and camera data

Cabin sensing platform combines radar and camera data
Technology News |
With a new "cabin sensing" solution, Continental enables real-time object detection of the entire vehicle interior. The approach goes beyond existing driver monitoring solutions and provides a building block for future mobility models such as automated or autonomous driving.
By Christoph Hammerschmidt


For cabin sensing, the technology company combines its know-how around the importance of interior cameras for human-machine interaction with its expertise in radar sensor technology. The technology meets future safety regulations of the European Commission and the consumer protection organisation European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP).

For the first time, the new system integrates the camera directly into the display instead of the steering column or instrument cluster, as was previously the case. According to Ulrich Lüders, Head of Strategy and Portfolio in the Human Machine Interface business unit at Continental, the company is relying on extreme miniaturisation of the technology to achieve this. “This opens up completely new possibilities for us in terms of positioning,” says Lüders.

The complexity of this technology lies, on the one hand, in integrating the optics and sensors, which have been minimised to around ten millimetres, precisely and completely into the display so that the highest demands on aesthetics and design are met. On the other hand, there is the precise positioning of the radar sensor, which must ensure that all areas of the interior are equally covered. The combination of both technologies as well as the precise integration and positioning opens up various use cases for cabin sensing.

The solution should reliably detect living objects in the vehicle – including children or animals. This is particularly important with regard to future safety standards: Continental’s solution meets the new requirements of the EU General Safety Regulation (GSR). In addition, car manufacturers can use it to gain points in Euro NCAP, advertises Lüders.

The radar sensor in Continental’s cabin sensing solution detects living objects such as babies and animals in the vehicle

From 2024, the EU Commission will prescribe driver and vehicle monitoring systems in the type approval requirements of the GSR for new approvals, for example to detect drowsiness or lack of driver attention. These legislative changes are accompanied by another regulatory driver: The Euro NCAP organisation will reward the installation of interior camera systems with points as early as 2023. In particular, the vehicle safety assessment programme plans to award rating points for the detection of children in the future (Child Presence Detection, CPD). If parents forget their child in the back seat, the cabin sensing technology detects this through the radar sensor and the downstream algorithms for object classification and sounds the alarm.

The camera images are also intensively evaluated: On the basis of the image information from the interior camera, the system can, for example, also recognise pieces of luggage that have been left behind. In such a case, it sends a notification to the owner’s mobile phone.

Integrating the camera into the display was a demanding task, Continental says.

Continental plans to add further functionalities to the system in the future. It is planned that, in addition to object movements, other health parameters will also be recorded and evaluated, such as pulse, breathing rate or body temperature. If the system detects a health emergency, it can then bring the vehicle to a safe stop using a so-called minimum risk manoeuvre. “By recording a wide range of vital data through cabin sensing, we will turn the car into a smart watch for passengers in the future,” summarises Daniel Naujack, Product Manager Interior Camera & Cabin Sensing at Continental.

On the road to autonomous driving, interior sensor technology is taking on another important role. One issue that repeatedly causes headaches for developers of autonomous driving cars is traffic situations that require the driving task to be handed back to the driver by the automated system. Making this handover safe is a crucial task that self-driving cars must master. Coupled with sensor information and software, an interior camera can detect whether a driver is even capable of taking back manual control. “Automated driving allows the driver to do things without having to concentrate on the traffic. So the system must be able to detect if the driver is absorbed in a book or even asleep so that the return of the driving task is successful and safe.” says Naujack.

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