Ever wished your car was more in tune with your mood? A team from Boston has developed a system for cars that detects drivers’ stress levels, tweaks the vehicle’s setup to make for a safer driving experience and can even change a car’s colour to alert other motorists of the driver’s mood.

AutoEmotive, created by a team of designers and programmers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, works using sensors positioned on the door handle and steering wheel which measure stress indicators - if you are stressed you’ll grasp the wheel tightly, your heart rate will rise and your palms will be sweaty.

The system also includes a camera which maps facial features and analyses voice characteristics such as pitch and volume to detect changes in mood.

AutoEmotive in-car camera

Once all the information has been attained, the car reacts accordingly. For instance it can increase the field of view of the headlights (to compensate for tunnel vision), reduce the temperature and recommend listening to calming or lively music depending on how stressed or tired the driver is. Even the voice on the sat nav can be modified depending on the driver’s mood. 

Lights on the dashboard adjust automatically, changing from red for stressed to green for calm so the driver gets pointers as to their mood and can react accordingly.

The four-person team behind AutoEmotive say that making a car more sympathetic to its driver’s mood can make driving a better experience for everyone.

“In the same way people enjoy interacting with a dog to reduce stress or simply have a good time, we envision that people will want to use AutoEmotive in a similar way,” said AutoEmotive’s Judith Amores.

They’ve also built a prototype car which uses thermochromatic paint to change colour depending on the driver’s mood - green is calm, blue neutral and red stressed.  Other drivers can see the colour of the car and adjust their driving accordingly – perhaps by giving a red car a wide berth.

The makers also envisage using collective data of stress levels to map areas that are particularly stressful to drive in, with a view to designing better cities with healthier people.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg; we believe AutoEmotive can not only improve the individual driving experience, but can also be used aggregate data and improve the emotional health of all cities,” said AutoEmotive team member Daniel McDuff, originally from Guildford.