Look mom, no hands! Can you imagine driving a car by using just your eyes? A group of researchers at the Freie UniversitÃ¤t Berlin developed the eyeDriver software, which steers a car with eye movements. Cameras mounted on the driver’s helmet capture his or her eye movements and then the computer program converts those into control signals for the steering wheel. Look left; turn left. Look right; turn right.
But why on earth develop such a technology? Shouldn’t one be keeping one’s eyes on the road? I corresponded with team member David Latotzky and asked him a few questions. Here’s what he had to say:
1. Why develop a car that can be steered with the eyes?
We’ve been developing a car that can drive autonomously for some years now. With eyeDriver we added the function to override the computer control by using the eyes to steer (a mode called “free ride”). We wanted to test the technology and see what was possible using today’s eye trackers. It could also give disabled or paralyzed people a degree of freedom and self-determination that is currently not possible due to their inability to communicate or interact with today’s control systems.
2. Is there a practical application? Or is this a step toward some other use in the future that is not yet developed?
The idea is that the car is autonomous, drives you anywhere, but a handicapped driver can give commands just by looking into the streets or direction he/she would like to take next. In the future it could be an alternative for giving commands to cars. We are already able to choose the next course the car will take when encountering crossroads just by looking into corresponding the direction.
3. How does the software distinguish between eyes that intend to steer and eyes that are merely looking at some object on the side of the road or perhaps reading a traffic sign?
When I am in the “free ride” mode, every eye-movement is interpreted as a steering command. When you want to look at some object / person / traffic sign, you return the control to the computer in the car. But you won’t have to look at traffic signs since the car will make sure all traffic-rules are obeyed.
And even if you don’t the disengage the “free ride” mode, it’s no problem. As I said in the beginning, the eyeDriver-software is an addition to the autonomy-function of the car. If you look somewhere off road while steering with the eyes, the car will prevent you from accidentally leaving your lane or crashing, using its lidar-, radar- and camera-sensors as well as its GPS and digital maps.