Using the Abarth 595, scientists have trialed the new technology to make sure you're having fun driving.
Abarth has been hard at work rethinking what path to take to move the enthusiast marque forward. After its parent company Fiat failed yet again to really break into the US market, Abarth now finds itself looking to new innovative ideas to make its cars not only more unique but also bring the Abarth experience to the next level. In line with this, Abarth is now the first company to use facial recognition technology to measure how happy their cars make the occupants.
In the first-of-its-kind trial, Abarth wanted to use cutting-edge technology to understand what kinds of emotions were experienced while in its cars. The trial was done in partnership with Loughborough University in the UK and headed by Dr. Dale Eslinger. Abarth then offered up three variations of the Fiat 500 Abarth for the test: the racy F595, 595 Esseesse, and 595 Competizione models.
For the experiment, facial recognition cameras were linked to the Deepface Python library and Facial Emotion Recognition library to detect what emotions were being experienced in the role of both driver and passenger. ECG and PPG heart rate sensors also helped provide additional data in determining what the emotions experienced were.
Confirming what we already suspected, the prominent feeling during a hot lap was happiness, which was experienced 31.8% of the time while driving, and 35.4% of the time while as a passenger. When driven by professional drivers, though, the participants also experienced bursts of fear 11.9% of the time, which Abarth says contributed "to a thrilling track day experience."
"Research within this remit is limited," said Dr. Eslinger, "however, I suspect it will be an area within the automotive industry that will continue to be explored, as manufacturers strive to improve the driving experiences of their cars." Greg Taylor, Fiat and Abarth, UK Managing Director, added: "We always knew anecdotally that the levels of joy our cars bring to the driver and passengers, but now we have some preliminary data from one of the world's leading sports universities to back that up.
This is not the first trial conducted with Abarth in the last few months to focus on driver enjoyment and the physical benefits it may have. Previously, Loughborough compared endorphin levels of occupants on track vs participants working out and found that track driving made you feel 59% happier than exercising.
It's some great data and something we can see Abarth expanding upon as it moves into its electric future. More than just the bragging rights of "My car is scientifically proven to be more fun than yours," Abarth has the opportunity to trial new soundscapes in future EVs and get a genuine, scientific response as to how it compares to the thrill created by a singing combustion engine. The loss of engine noise in performance cars is something all manufacturers have acknowledged, but if we can find something that makes up for the emotion it creates, then EVs might not be as bad as we feared.
Fiat and Abarth have always been major proponents for driving characteristics over outright power, so it's a shame the only car we're still getting in the US from the group is the Fiat 500X. Maybe if Abarth can gain more interest in the brand by asking fans to decide its future design direction, we'll get a chance to purchase what is sure to be a riotous electric hatch.