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When Driving Becomes the Distraction: Faurecia, Stanford University Announce Partnership to Explore Future of Autonomous Driving, Share Research at Connected Car Expo

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Nov. 12, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Faurecia, one of the world's largest automotive suppliers, and Stanford University's Center for Design Research, have formed a partnership aimed at studying potential behavioral changes in an autonomous vehicle. The organizations will share initial research findings at the Connected Car Expo during the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Faurecia and Stanford have identified several important challenges the industry must address to mitigate consumer apprehension to new driving modes:

  • Creating a Confident Occupant Experience – Stanford research data suggest that increased Situation Awareness helps drivers of autonomous vehicles feel confidence and trust in the system. Technologies like Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) warnings can provide important information on what the vehicle is doing when used properly. However, drivers report that they often find the use and interface of these systems complicated and sometimes turn them off, reducing their benefit1. Keeping the driver alert and ready for a transfer of control is also a critical issue that was identified. Providing information in new ways that easily attract attention and effectively increase the driver's Situation Awareness must be explored.
  • Safely Enabling New User Scenarios – The promise of autonomous mobility is primarily enabling new user scenarios while in motion. Reading, working, socializing, and eating are just a few of the potential activities that will create the need for a more flexible interior while preserving safety.
  • Mitigating Motion Sickness – Studies2 have shown that people expect to use passenger time in an autonomous vehicle to do things like read, or use handheld devices, which can contribute to motion sickness for occupants. The factors contributing to motion sickness are known and Faurecia is now in active development around innovations to mitigate or avoid the onset of these symptoms. 

Faurecia and Stanford believe these and other considerations will take an increasingly important role in the future development of autonomous transportation, with more attention placed on what's happening inside the vehicle.

Dr. David Sirkin of the Stanford Center for Design Research and Matthew Benson of Faurecia's xWorks innovation center will present their research "When Driving Becomes the Distraction: Putting the Occupant Back in the Mobility Conversation" at the Connected Car Expo on November 17.

"As the automotive industry continues its march toward autonomous vehicles, most of its efforts have been focused on creating the technology that will enable auto-pilot functionality," said Rob Huber, Vice President of Innovation for Faurecia. "While this is an essential foundation, Faurecia is prioritizing a parallel development track focused on how we enhance the mobility experience by improving life-on-board, making comfort, customization and connectivity a priority." 

"In partnering with Faurecia, we are taking the industry's first steps toward anticipating and averting problems that autonomous-car drivers may encounter in their transition from active controllers to multi-tasking occupants of vehicles," said Sirkin. "While the industry often considers the new technologies required to keep autonomous cars safely on course, these physiological issues will require their own approaches to vehicle design and engineering."

At the Connected Car Expo, Faurecia will discuss potential technology approaches to the interior systems of an autonomous vehicle. Faurecia will also demonstrate Active Wellness, a seating system developed to improve the comfort and well-being of vehicle occupants that could also help overcome the potential emotional and biological issues identified through the Faurecia-Stanford research. Active Wellness is the first vehicle seating system that detects a driver's stress levels and other physical responses by measuring heart and breathing patterns through sensors integrated into the seat. Based on these measurements, the system can initiate countermeasures – for example, employing a specific massage therapy or increased seating ventilation – to restore the driver to an improved state of comfort. Ultimately, Active Wellness may reduce stress among connected or autonomous car occupants.

"Active Wellness is one of the ways Faurecia is already pursuing new functionalities and designs in seating and interiors to address emerging issues related to driving connected/autonomous vehicles," said Huber.

David Sirkin is a Postdoctoral Scholar at Stanford University's Center for Design Research, where his research focuses on physical interaction design and ubiquitous computing, particularly interactions between humans and robotic everyday objects, and autonomous cars and their interfaces. He is also a Lecturer in Stanford's Department of Electrical Engineering, where he teaches mechatronics and interactive device design.

Matthew Benson leads Faurecia's Autonomous Experience Initiative.  He is located within Faurecia's Westworks Innovation Center in Holland, Michigan, a cross-functional product & business incubator focusing on strategic innovation and venturing for the automotive industry. Broadly, Matt's work is focused on aligning emerging technologies and business models with opportunities to address the future needs of society and end users. 

About the Stanford Center for Design Research
The Stanford Center for Design Research (CDR) is a community of scholars focused on understanding and augmenting engineering design innovation practice and education. The organization is dedicated to facilitating individual creativity, understanding the team design process and developing advanced tools and methods that promote superior design and manufacturing of products. The CDR develops concepts and technical solutions for design thinking, concurrent engineering, distributed collaborative design and design knowledge reuse.

About Faurecia
Faurecia is one of the world's largest automotive suppliers, with four Business Groups: Automotive Seating, Emissions Control Technologies, Interior Systems and Automotive Exteriors. In 2014, the Group posted sales of $25 billion. As of December 31, 2014, Faurecia employed 99,500 people in 34 countries at 330 sites, including 30 R&D centers. Faurecia is listed on the NYSE Euronext Paris stock exchange and trades in the U.S. over-the-counter (OTC) market.

In North America, Faurecia had sales of $6.2 billion in 2014. It employs more than 20,000 people at 48 locations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.


1University of Iowa National Consumer Survey of Driving Safety Technologies 

2University of Michigan study:

SOURCE Faurecia

For further information: Tony Sapienza, Director, Communications Faurecia North America, Tel: +1-248-606-1775,, Tiffani Blade, Airfoil Group For Faurecia North America, Tel: +1-313-207-2259,