Over the past few years, there have been millions of vehicles recalled because of defective airbags. One of the problems, which has resulted in deaths and lawsuits, is that the airbags do not deploy effectively.
Vehicles have a system of sensors known as an Automotive Occupant Classification System (OCS), which is designed to deploy the airbag based on an estimation of the weight on the seat in a car. However, the sensing devices in most seats in cars cannot tell the difference between something such as an inanimate bag of groceries or a child, if both are similar in weight. The sensor cannot tell the person’s position, size, and movements.
Due to the failure rate of the current OCS system, automobile manufacturers are now looking for more intelligent and dependable OCS solutions.
One solution comes from BeBop Sensors, a Berkeley, California company whose OCS smart fabric sensor technology takes continuous full seat pressure images, providing real-time data frames containing pressure information from the entire seat to measure all aspects of physical contact between the occupant and the seat. Computer vision understands the occupant’s position and all movements—leaning forward, left, right, crossing legs, and can determine the size and weight. It can also sense if something is static such as a baby or booster seat.
With this detail and knowledge, should an accident happen, BeBop’s system allows for a more accurate deployment of the airbag in a way that will be the safest for the person in the seat of a vehicle based on his or her position, weight, and size at the moment of impact.
“You can tell more about a person through a picture than a scale,” says Keith McMillen, CEO of BeBop Sensors.
BeBop’s flexible, waterproof OCS sensor system, at 1 mm, is thin enough to be placed under the seat’s upholstery. The fabric-based sensors are substantially lighter than any other liquid-based OCS solutions, ensuring only minimal weight is added to the seat construction. The technology has no moving parts, making it highly reliable. It is designed to meet automotive grade in terms of environmental and durability requirements.
BeBop is currently engaged with 10 of the largest automotive manufacturers and tier-one suppliers on work that includes the OCS, as well as applying the fabric sensor technology in a vehicle’s steering wheel to track driver alertness, and in a tire to sense the road surface, adjust suspension, and report on tread depth.
With technology that includes an improved OCS, smart steering wheels, and smart tires, the vehicles of the future are certain to be smarter and safer for both passengers and drivers.