Hitachi's Biometric Steering Wheel
Another technological gem to surface at the Tokyo Motor Show is Hitachi's finger vein authentification steering wheel system. The potential for this biometric system goes way beyond the enhancement of vehicle security -- not only does it provide driver verification in a fraction of a second just by gripping the steering wheel, it also paves the way for authorization of automatic payment in drive-thrus or for music downloads to increasingly sophisticated networked car audio systems.
Different functions can also be assigned to each finger meaning it can double as a switch -- one finger could control the set-up (seat, side mirror position, air-conditioning etc.) for the recognized while the other could be used for control of navigation or audio systems -- all the while leaving the driver's eyes on the road and their hands in a fixed position on the wheel.
Hitachi has been developing an original biometric, finger vein authentification technology since 1997 and unveiled a grip-type technology for car door handles in 2005. The system uses the finger vein pattern obtained from passing light through a finger as a key, but in its latest incarnation, the system has been made more compact and the area scanned had been changed from the finger surface to the side of the finger.
Hitachi's finger vein authentification steering wheel system is currently on show at the 40th Tokyo Motor Show and the company plans to continue the development of the technology for numerous applications beyond the automotive sector including office admission control, PC log-in and bank ATM's.