With its vehicle occupant monitoring system, audio equipment maker DTS Inc. will make a play for a new market beyond its traditional buyers.
The Calabasas company, a subsidiary of Xperi Holding Corp. in San Jose, has for years made audio products for theaters, homes and vehicles.
Called AutoSense, the system uses a single camera and artificial intelligence software to sense, in real time, the presence of occupants and objects. For example, it could sense a laptop, child or pet accidentally left in the vehicle.
The product includes occupant detection, child seat detection, child presence detection and passenger authentication. It also has a driver monitoring system. Working together, both parts provide information about activity inside the vehicle, including the driver, passengers, pets and objects.
The technology can also enable personalization of infotainment recommendations such as playlists, content, volume of music, choice of radio station, in-cabin temperature adjustments or any setting that can be adapted to a user’s specific taste, the company said. 
Jeff Jury, general manager of automotive for Xperi, said the move into vehicle occupant monitoring is a natural progression for DTS.
“In growing the business, we are providing a better solution for the car industry,” Jury said.
DTS also makes automotive products such as AutoStage, a hybrid solution that combines over-the-air broadcasters with the internet; and HD Radio, a digital broadcast of local AM and FM stations that includes additional features that wouldn’t exist on an analog signal.


Product debut
AutoSense will debut this year when a car company will begin using it in its vehicles.
Jury could not identify the car company that will use the DTS system because it does not like to pre-announce new features. He said it was a major car manufacturer with global reach. 
“(The technology) is not just for one market; it will be released globally in all its cars,” he added. 
Before even being deployed, AutoSense has garnered two awards from car industry groups in the U.S. and Europe.
In November, AutoSense received a 2020 AutoTech Breakthrough Award in the industry leadership category for overall autotech solution of the year. And later that month, it received a third place in the safety category at the CLEPA Innovation Awards given by the European association of car suppliers. 
The awards figure into the marketing of the system to car companies and their tier one suppliers, Jury said. 
“We also work with governments on this, to the extent that governments want to set standards on in-cabin safety,” he added. “We provide important information based on how we understand things work and help them articulate the safety standards they want.”
Joe Molina, an independent public relations consultant to the transportation industry, said that articulating to the consumer how the system will help them in their every day life is also key to the success of AutoSense. 
“If they can simplify the answer, they are going to get a lot of people interested in it,” Molina said. 
With its ability to remind people of when they have left a purse, cell phone, computer or grocery bag in their vehicle, Molina said he could see the system as a big benefit for certain demographics. 
“For an older crowd, a memory enhancer is always something that would be a plus,” he added.


Cell phone technology
The precursor technology for AutoSense came from cell phones and could help identify people when taking photos. 
“It started out years ago with phone-related technology for cameras and it has now been optimized for car applications,” Jury said.
The safety aspect of the system is what will make car companies want to incorporate it into their vehicles and will make a car buyer want to purchase a vehicle with the system in it.
“You have a little camera in the car and it can help identify what is going on,” Jury said. “It can warn the driver or the passengers there could be a situation they want to take care of.” 
Jury emphasized that the data generated never leaves the car or gets pushed to the cloud for storage on remote servers.
“This is all about how to create a safer, better environment in the car,” he said. “It’s not about data sharing or anything like that.” 
Molina, the consultant, said that DTS needs to make it simple to understand to potential users of the system how the company is ensuring that their data is safe. 
“In this day and age, unfortunately, everybody has a conspiracy theory it seems about how things are misused,” Molina said. “Trust is a big thing.”