Ford Project MobilEnlarge Photo
In order to expand the capabilities of in-car tech, Ford is working with Intel to bring facial recognition to the dashboard. The joint research project, called Project Mobil, will allow engineers to see how inward-facing cameras can be integrated into a car's existing systems to provide useful features. Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] already believes the technology can help improve privacy and give parents a way to monitor their kids as they drive.
When someone enters a Project Mobil-equipped car uses a front-facing camera to authenticate each driver. If the system doesn't recognize the driver, it would be able to send a photo to the vehicle's owner, who could then give permission for someone else to use it.
Once a driver is identified, the car can automatically adjust various settings to suit them. Drivers can also set different parameters for other people who use their cars, like requiring seat belt use or limiting audio volume or vehicle speed. This would theoretically allow parents to keep a leash on young drivers.
They may also be able to watch their children driver. Ford says Project Mobil can let owners remotely peek into their cars through a smartphone app, although this NSA-style monitoring could make other drivers--teenage or not--hesitant about borrowing the car. Maybe that's the whole idea.
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A less creepy feature is gesture-recognition technology. Ford believes this can be combined with existing voice controls to make things like adjusting the climate control or opening and closing a sunroof easier while driving.
Project Mobil is still just an experiment, so Ford has no immediate plans to put any of this technology into production. Don't be surprised if your dashboard stares back at you eventually, though.