Abarth Uses Facial Recognition To Assess Driver Enjoyment

Participants in the experiment got to lap the Mallory Park race track.

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Hot hatches exist to be fun by combining ample power, sharp handling, and a relatively small footprint. But, how do you prove how exciting a vehicle is to drive? For Abarth, the answer is to monitor occupants through facial recognition and watch their heart rate with sensors.

Abarth worked with Dr. Dale Esliger from Loughborough University in the United Kingdom to perform the experiment. The participants lapped the Mallory Park race track and got to ride as a passenger with a professional driver at the wheel.

The data showed that the most common feeling was happiness when driving and as a passenger.  When riding shotgun with the professional racer, there were short bursts of fear and shock.

“Research within this remit is limited, 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,” Dr. Esliger said about the research.

The current Abarth range in Europe consists of upgraded versions of the Fiat 500. The most recent model launch is the 695 Tributo 131 Rally with a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 180 horsepower (134 kilowatts) and 184 pound-feet (250 Newton-meters) of torque. It can hit 62 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour) in 6.7 seconds.

Elsewhere, there’s the Brazil-exclusive Pulse performance crossover. It loads the Fiat version of the model with a more aggressive body kit and red accents.

Spy shots show that an Abarth version of the 500e is currently under development as an electric hot hatch. As of May 2022, the brand’s boss Olivier François said that final testing was in process.

There still aren’t many details available about the Abarth 500e. François confirms there are suspension tweaks and revised brakes. There’s no official powertrain information available yet. According to a rumor, the model would accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in around 7.0 seconds.

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