A Cambridge professor has built a prototype of an in-car satellite navigation system that can detect a driver’s mood and respond to it.

If developed further, the system could help avoid overloading a confused driver with information, for example by turning down the volume on the car radio or avoiding repetitive instructions.

According to a story in London’s Daily Mail newspaper, Peter Robinson, who conducts research on the boundaries between people and computers, created the system after running out of patience with his navigation system on complex roads.

The system, according to the Daily Mail, recognizes facial expressions and voice tone and can react based on the situation. The prototype conveys the data to software attached to a robotic human head that sits in the passenger seat next to the driver.

Sensors detect facial expressions and voice recognition software can pick up rising irritation in the tone of a driver’s voice. When it detects a driver’s anger, the robot responds with sympathetic expressions, according to the Daily Mail.

The newspaper cited tests that show the navigation system correctly identifies a driver’s feelings 70 per cent of the time. That’s as good as most humans, the newspaper said.