More cars will be watching drivers to make sure their eyes are on the road in the near future. These technologies are likely coming in response to new rules adopted in the EU that require new cars to be fitted with technology designed to warn drivers of drowsiness or inattentiveness.
The automotive supplier Bosch, for example, has promised an interior monitoring system for cars that can determine eyelid movements, direction of gaze, and sitting position. It will alert drivers when they aren’t paying attention, optimize airbags depending on how a vehicle’s occupant is positioned, and set off alarms if a child or pet has been left behind in a locked vehicle.
A few systems are already on the market, but some of them don’t work very well. “Driver monitoring is especially important in cars where drivers can activate some driver assistance features, such as lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, and active driving assistance, with the push of a button, and essentially hand over some control of the vehicle,” said Kelly Funkhouser, head of autonomous and connected vehicles at Consumer Reports.
CR has evaluated several driver monitoring systems. Our tests have found that the infrared camera-based monitoring in GM’s Super Cruise feature does a good job of ensuring that drivers are engaged and paying attention to the road. We haven’t been impressed by systems that rely solely on sensors that can tell if a driver is holding the steering wheel. In CR’s view, these don’t truly show whether a driver’s eyes and mind are focused on the road.