Carpacio: Repurposing Capacitive Sensors to Distinguish Driver and Passenger Touches on In-Vehicle Screens

Edward Wang, Jake Garrison, Eric Whitmire, Mayank Goel, Shwetak Patel
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Carpacio enables modern vehicles to differentiate the user of the touch screen based on capacitive coupling of the user's body to the screen.


Standard vehicle infotainment systems often include touch screens that allow the driver to control their mobile phone, navigation, audio, and vehicle configurations. For the driver’s safety, these interfaces are often disabled or simplified while the car is in motion. Although this reduced functionality aids in reducing distraction for the driver, it also disrupts the usability of infotainment systems for passengers. Current infotainment systems are unaware of the seating position of their user and hence, cannot adapt. We present Carpacio, a system that takes advantage of the capacitive coupling created between the touchscreen and the electrode present in the seat when the user touches the capacitive screen. Using this capacitive coupling phenomenon, a car infotainment system can intelligently distinguish who is interacting with the screen seamlessly, and adjust its user interface accordingly. Manufacturers can easily incorporate Carpacio into vehicles since the included seat occupancy detection sensor or seat heating coils can be used as the seat electrode. We evaluated Carpacio in eight different cars and five mobile devices and found that it correctly detected over 2600 touches with an accuracy of 99.4%.