Future Ford vehicles may soon be able to identify their owners using facial-recognition software, the automaker says. 

"The use of interior imaging is purely research at this point," said Paul Mascarenas, Ford Research and Innovation chief technical officer and vice president.  "However, the insights we've gained will help us shape the customer experience in the long term."

Ford is also developing a mobile phone app that gives drivers the ability to remotely peer into their car. The feature would enable the user to check for belongings left inside the car or authorize/decline other drivers to operate the vehicle.

The work is part of a joint research project between Ford and Intel. The project is dubbed "Mobile Interior Imaging" or "Project Mobii."

"The Mobii research examines new applications for interior cameras, including driver authentication," Ford said. "The use of facial-recognition software offers improved privacy controls and enables Project Mobii to identify different drivers and automatically adjust features based on an individual's preferences."

If Project Mobii does not recognize the driver, a photo is sent to the primary vehicle owner's smartphone. The owner can then set permissions and specify features that should be enabled or disabled. A parent could set restrictions that require seatbelt use and limits on speed, audio volume or mobile phone use while driving.

The system would also incorporate gesture-recognition software for tasks such as turning on the air-conditioning or opening and closing a sunroof.

According to Edmunds, this kind of technology could make for some pretty interesting personalization options, not to mention the security of knowing which drivers should be allowed behind the wheel.