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Seeing red? Future Toyotas will sense your mood

Cameras mounted inside the cabin study the driver's facial expressions to customize the electronics system based on the driver's mood.

Toyota is working on a mood-sensitive electronics system that's part safety net, part backseat driver. According to an article on, the prototype system customizes the safety system's alert times based on the driver's mood. And how can it tell what mood you're in? Cameras mounted inside the cabin are focused on the driver's position and recognize emotions by interpreting 238 points on the face.

Sad or angry drivers may be distracted or have delayed reaction times, and they may not be able to avoid an accident. If your car thinks you've woken up on the wrong side of the bed, the electronics alert system will give you a little more of a heads up. On the other hand, if the system determines that your expression is neutral, the warning system will use standard alert times.

Toyota isn't the the only auto manufacturer using cameras inside vehicles to keep an eye on the driver in addition to the road. Audi is testing distracted-driver technology using in-cabin cameras that watch the driver's head position. If the system detects that the driver may not be paying attention based on the body and head position, Audi's crash-avoidance technology may engage earlier than normal.

A Cambridge University professor is developing a mood-sensitive navigation system that can give you directions based on natural-language conversation. In addition to giving better GPS guidance, the technology could be integrated with other vehicle electronics systems to block phone calls or limit speed if it senses that the driver is under stress.

But mood-sensitive alerts and navigation are still a few years away from becoming a reality. Toyota has been developing this technology since 2006, and Jonas Ambeck, senior manager of advance technology for the car maker, says the basic research should be complete within two to three years and could make it into vehicles as soon as six years from now.