Vayyar has launched a 3D sensor that provides more detailed information about what’s happening inside the car than the current optical image systems.

When we think about self-driving hardware, we tend to think about the outward-facing equipment like the radar, LiDAR and camera assemblies that are responsible for keeping the car and its occupants safe.

Can the car hand-off?

But the car also has to keep an eye on the people inside, particularly the driver, to make sure that they are ready for a driver hand-off and tailor the in-car experience.

Vayyar doesn’t rely on cameras, instead it’s a system of 3D sensors that work in any lighting conditions and also won’t suffer image loss due to light pollution inside the car.

The sensors can also monitor the driver’s vital signs and look for a series of indicators that you are ready to take control of the car if required.

Could this allow self-driving today?

Current systems use cameras, but the likes of Ford and Volvo are reticent to use Level 2 or Level 3 autonomy in a customer’s car when they simply cannot solve the driver hand-off issue. Audi has been a little more forthcoming.

Vayyar could be the answer, as it has a much more sophisticated monitoring system and could help provide much clearer communication between the car and driver.

When the car really does take the wheel full-time, then the interior will take on an even more important role. The driver won’t have to control the car, so instead they can focus on in-car entertainment and other activities.

Then, the user experience will become the USP of every car on the road. Other factors like cornering speed and acceleration will pale into insignificance, as self-driving cars will inevitably obey speed limits and focus on smooth power delivery.

Interiors will take over

So, glass that can double as a cinema, flexible seating layouts and in-car entertainment will become the selling points of the future. How the car interacts with the driver and passenger will be crucial and an advanced monitoring system is clearly a good start.

Vayyar has other potential benefits, including optimizing airbag deployment that is actually customized to the people in the car.

It could also help the car make complex decisions if a crash is unavoidable, to make sure that the people inside the car have the best chance of getting out unscathed. They could also provide invaluable information on the passengers’ condition and relay that information to the emergency services.

Blind spot support

The sensors also cover the area just outside the car, which means that they should help eliminated any blind spots in the actual self-driving hardware. These blind spots should be few and far between in any case, but if Vayyar can plug the small gaps then this has to be a good thing.

The company believes it can improve self-parking technology and also give a clearer indication of potential hazards, like high curbs and roadside obstacles.

This is intriguing technology and shows just how far we have to go with self-driving cars. We’re impressed with the likes of the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt, but the next generation of self-driving cars could really blow us away.