The incredible Ford Focus RS ‘Buzz Car’ monitors driver emotions and displays them in real time on the outside of the car – visualising the drivers continuous biometric state and the scientifically derived ‘buzz moment’!

Following a study commissioned by Ford, and as part of their Driver-State research into healthier and safer driving, buzz moments are defined as “peak moments of emotional activity” that “play a vital role in our overall wellness”. 

Ford then approached Designworks to create a unique concept car. Using their highly acclaimed Focus RS as the basis for the build we transformed it into a vehicle capable of monitoring and visualising driver emotions on bespoke display panels fitted around the car.

To achieve this, we developed a display and visualisation system capable of translating raw biometric data (from sensors worn by the driver) into vibrant and dazzling real-time animations, displayed across almost 200,000 individually addressable LEDs.  AI software, a high-performance Zotac VR GO gaming PC and a 4G network were used to access data from a cloud-based API once every second – creating stunning visualisations.

So how does it all work? The driver is equipped with sensors which monitor heart rate (HR) and galvanic skin response (GSR). Over 200 readings are taken every second and processed through proprietary algorithms, translating the data into emotions.  This ‘emotional data’ is then passed through a real-time generative graphics engine which identifies and categorises the emotions.  Emotional states are then allocated specific form and colour attributes, allowing real-time animations to be generated that flow across the display surface.  When a predefined ‘emotional value’ threshold is breached, the system identifies this as a ‘buzz moment’.

The project revealed that drivers of Ford Performance cars experience an average of 2.1 buzz moments during a typical daily commute – almost as many as a rollercoaster ride!  Forming part of Fords wider driver-state research, a project targeting healthier and safer driving, Ford are looking to develop driver safety systems that help prevent crashes caused by fatigued or stressed drivers.

In overcoming the unique technical challenges of this ambitious project, Designworks and its partners have created a truly unique vehicle, and scientific tool, that will further help researchers understand the relationship between driver and machine.

Here’s some of the coverage the buzz car has generated; The GuardianThe Sun and LAD Bible.  We are supporting the buzz car on its tour of European over the coming weeks – so watch out for more buzz moments in a town near you!