With the spread of sensors that help drivers see more, Hyundai Motor Co. is getting behind the idea that another nose might keep us safer.

The South Korean car maker’s $7 million investment in Aryballe, a French maker of cell phone-sized odor sensors, highlights growing interest in sensors that detect fuel leaks, as well as evidence that a smoker may have broken the no-smoking rules. Aryballe will boost output of its NeOse Pro sensor and build an odor database using machine learning and algorithms. 

Aryballe sees rising demand particularly from car-sharing services, whose success depends on customer satisfaction, as well as self-driving vehicles. The company has traditionally focused on the food and fragrance business, but is sniffing out opportunities in the autonomous vehicle market that’s expected to grow to $65.3 billion in 2027.

  • In March, Aryballe teamed with Japanese car mobility parts maker Denso to establish odor standards for different substances, including cigarette and fuel residues.
  • Hyundai expects to use the sensors to detect maintenance and safety issues, including internal ignition malfunctions that can lead to fires. 
  • So-called bioelectronic noses have also shown potential in the healthcare and environmental services industries. Researchers are trying to use the technology to diagnose lung cancer , monitor environmental pollutants and water quality.
  • Karma Takeaway: Hyundai’s investment in Aryballe highlights digital olfaction technology’s growing promise in the automobile industry as car sharing services and self-driving cars push for better user experiences and safety.