ADAM CogTec's software establishes baseline results for individual drivers, then can detect deviations from those normal indications when a motorist is impaired or fatigued.
Frequency of testing can be tailored by car companies or fleet operators. Some might check a driver's cognitive state when the person enters the vehicle. Others might at regular intervals or initiate a scan after an unusual event, such as a hard braking.
More novel use cases may exist. Imagine climbing into the back of an Uber or Lyft, for example, and seeing the driver's current test compared with their normal baselines. Applications stem beyond the auto industry into other transportation sectors and even the health industry.
"Take a surgeon who's about to enter a five- or six-hour triple-bypass operation," Pickering said. "Where's the check that says he's safe to operate? Imagine on the entrance door to the operating theater there's a real-time, noncontact system that gives him the green light or an amber one that says, 'You didn't sleep much last night.' Anything that indicates a decline of cognitive performance against the norm."
Before joining the startup, Pickering was Jaguar Land Rover's head of autonomous technology strategy and global human-machine interface manager. During his tenure, JLR experimented with measuring cognitive state by using thermographic images of a driver's head to monitor blood flow. Researchers learned blood flow increases in a variety of scenarios, including when a driver gets embarrassed.
Throughout the industry, there has been research that attempts to infer a driver's emotional state and cognitive condition by analyzing facial expressions.
"But that can only go so far," Pickering said. "Some of them can monitor when the eyes are starting to close, and they can pop a drowsiness warning. But that's as close as they can get. So this layer on top is a natural fit."