Steering wheel camera 'detects angry drivers'

Face recognition software Image copyright EPFL
Image caption The technology tracks the contours of the face

A concept to embed facial recognition cameras into steering wheels to detect angry or upset drivers is being worked on by researchers.

A team in Switzerland said irritated drivers could be more aggressive and less attentive, and therefore assessing emotional state could improve safety.

Tests of the system showed promising levels of accuracy, the team said.

But one group representing the interests of drivers was not impressed.

The researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne said their system "learned" to identify two emotions - anger and disgust - on the face of its test subjects.

Another use for the technology was said to be to detect driver fatigue by monitoring the percentage of eyelid closure.

The camera was tested in both an office environment, and in a car provided by Peugeot Citroën.

Facial expression recognition technology is already widely used, particularly in the video games industry.

'Row with their wife'

But in this scenario, the technology is a long way from being ready for use.

The team said it faced a challenge in making sure the emotion detection was reliable given that humans reactions and facial expressions can vary greatly.

And Hugh Bladon, from the Association of British Drivers, was against the concept full stop.

"I don't like the idea at all," he said.

"I'm all for something which stops someone who's drunk or on drugs getting in and driving.

"But to try and test someone's emotional state... if they've had a row with their wife or they've had a bad report about something... that's too far.

"It's an intrusion."

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

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