Imagine if you only needed to shoot a glance toward your car’s rearview mirror to gain access to a whole range of customized cabin settings and cloud-based data. You could still use a key or fob to get into the car, but as an added security measure, you would need your eyeball to turn it on. This is the vision of Gentex, which announced at the 2018 CES technology show that it has partnered with Fingerprints, a company that specializes in biometric identification, to bring its ActiveIRIS iris-scanning technology to rearview mirrors and other places in the cockpit.
In a release, Gentex notes that putting the iris scanner in or around the rearview mirror would allow automakers to offer it in whatever trim package they wanted without having to significantly redesign interiors. Gentex, as it happens, is a major supplier of rearview mirrors.
The level of interest from automakers remains to be seen, but Gentex claims there are car companies “keen” on the technology. Iris scanning involves digitally mapping out the intricate and uniquely woven designs of people’s irises by illuminating them with near-infrared light. Gentex puts the technology’s false acceptance rate—meaning how often it would incorrectly identify a person—at as low as one in 10 million. As long ago as 2011, some U.S. law enforcement agencies have stated a preference for its more efficient method of identifying prison inmates versus fingerprinting, according to a report by Reuters.
More recently, the technology has been appearing in mainstream commercial use. Samsung, for example, has deployed iris scanning in its Galaxy S8 smartphone, although it reportedly has been susceptible to hacking. Other companies, such as Voxx Electronics and EyeLock, have developed systems that would scan the iris of a person sitting in the driver’s seat as a security measure. At last year’s CES, Chrysler showed an electric minivan concept called the Portal that featured facial recognition and biometric scanning. And at that same show, Gentex itself was already displaying the capabilities of ActiveIRIS with a company called Delta ID, which Fingerprints acquired last February.