New Smartphone App Could Add Luxury Safety Features to Any Car

An experimental mobile app could help a Nexus make any car feel more like a Lexus by adding two high-end safety features now only available in luxury cars.

Developers at Dartmouth College used a Samsung Galaxy Nexus to test CarSafe, an Android app that can help keep drivers from in their lanes as well as monitor drivers for fatigue.

With the smartphone mounted on the windshield, the app uses the forward-facing camera to make sure the car stays between the lines on the road and maintains a safe distance from the car ahead.  Meanwhile, the screen-side camera monitors the driver, tracking head position, gaze direction and blink rate.  A drowsy or distracted driver triggers the phone to beep and flash a cup of coffee on the screen.

Don’t look for CarSafe on Google Play just yet though, as the developers caution that the app is not quite up to speed, so to speak.  It’s billed as “the first dual-camera application for smartphones,” and there may be a good reason for that: current phones can’t access both cameras at the same time.  So the developers had to make the app constantly switch back and forth between the cameras, and as a result it can only analyze scenes at eight frames per second, well below the frame rate necessary to be useful at highway speeds when the features are most needed.

Lead researcher Andrew Campbell told New Scientist that advances in smartphone technology will soon overcome this technical snag:

“But the next generation of phones will allow software to access both cameras simultaneously, removing that bottle neck,” predicts Campbell. “And with advent of quad core and 16 core phones in the future I would expect 20 to 30 fps [frames per second] on each camera.”

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