General Motors may be the latest auto manufacturer to look to technology to reduce the number of distracted driving and fatigued driving accidents. GM has purchased tracking devices that analyze the faces and eyes of drivers. Similar technology is used in the commercial trucking industry to identify when a truck driver’s eyes are not on the road, either due to a distraction or to drowsiness. GM’s initial investment is for 500,000 of these devices. The company has not yet released the details of which vehicles will receive the devices or of how they will be used.
Accidents caused by tired or distracted driving are not easy to identify. While a drunk driver can be tested following an accident, there is often an absence of evidence that can demonstrate a driver who was dozing or not paying attention. Tired drivers are often not aware that they have reached a dangerous level of inattention to the road.
Lane departure warning systems have not been proven effective. Minimizing distractions often involves actions that are outside the control of the vehicle. Drivers must be responsible for paying attention to the road, rather than to cell phones, navigation devices and other distractions. Eye- and face-tracking devices may work where other efforts have failed.
While most realistic assessments show that large scale adoption of autonomous (self-driving) vehicles is a long way off, there are ways that cars can assist drivers in staying safe. Driver fatigue and distraction lead to substantial loss of life and debilitating injuries every day. Anything that can be done to prevent these tragedies is good news.
Source: Wired, “Your Next Chevy May Watch You Watching the Road” by Jordan Golson, 3 September 2014