In cars (are we really safest of all?): Interior sensing and emotional opacity

Andrew McStay, Lachlan Urquhart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper analyses expert and regulatory perspectives on car driver-monitoring systems that measure bodies to infer and react to emotions, fatigue, and attentiveness. Developers of driver-monitoring systems promise increased safety on the road, alongside comfort for cabin occupants through personalisation and automation. The impetus is three-fold, namely: (1) European road safety policy seeks to vastly reduce road deaths using computational surveillance; (2) there is a growing interest around in cabin safety solutions that sense emotion and affective states of drivers and passengers; and (3) autonomous driving trends are changing the nature of interactions between vehicle and driver. Safety led applications are of special interest because they are backed by policy and standards initiatives including the European Union’s Vision Zero policy and the industry led New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP). Informed by 13 interviews with experts working in and around in-cabin sensing technologies, this paper first identifies and explores features of emergent in-cabin profiling through emotional artificial intelligence (AI) and biometric measures. It then examines how in-car sensing should be regulated by analysing data protection laws and the proposed EU AI Act. A deep ambivalence emerged from our participants around the emergence of emotional AI in cars, and how best to regulate these technologies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Review of Law, Computers and Technology
Early online date2 Feb 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Feb 2022


  • autonomous driving
  • cars
  • biometrics
  • data protection
  • emotional AI
  • mobility
  • regulation
  • safety
  • surveillance
  • trust


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