Imagine you’ve had a long day, have barely slept at night and need to take a long trip on the road the next day. There’s a good chance that you’ll be yawning by the middle of the trip; and while on the road, even taking your eyes off of it for a single moment could possibly prove to be fatal. Research conducted at the Oregon State University in Corvallis, USA suggested that taking your eyes off the road for just 2 seconds increased the risk of accidents from 4 times to 24.
Being distracted while driving is a major cause of fatal accidents on the road in countries like the UK, contributing to almost a quarter of them. According to the European Commission, it was cause for close to a third of the car crashes while fatigue caused a fifth of them. This is why the executive branch of the European Union is planning to make new safety technologies mandatory in the continent in the next couple of years, especially with regards to the distraction and drowsiness of drivers.
In response to this, Bosch, a German engineering and tech company, has announced that it has developed a monitoring system to be built into the cars that will make use of cameras and Artificial Intelligence to detect whether the driver is distracted or is getting drowsy. For the latter, they’ve employed an algorithm that judges the driver’s drowsiness based on their eyelid position and blink rate. The system will then alert the driver, recommending a break or even reduce the speed of the vehicle. The kind of alert system, be it a blinking light on the Head-Up Display, a beeping sound or a vibrating wheel, will be left to the automotive brands and their consumers to customize.
Bosch, however, is no pioneer in this field. The technology was introduced with the 2018 Cadillac CT6, the system being developed by Australia-based Seeing Machines, a leader in computer vision tech. Another company called Smart Eye Automotive Solutions, this one being Swedish, has developed a similar system for the Geely Auto Group, a Chinese automotive giant. This technology, better known as Driver Monitoring Systems (DMS), is part of a more comprehensive sensor-based tech called Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) which also has other uses, including autonomous driving and recognition of drivers.
The use of cameras and face-recognition tech has stirred a completely new controversy though, with the collection of personal data of drivers and passengers becoming a major issue. Bosch, however, has assured that the data collected will only be processed by the system in the car and not be saved or passed on to any party, including to Bosch itself. In the event that the automaker wishes to collect and store data, they will have to take consent from the owner of the vehicle first. Driver Monitoring Systems are only part of the solution though, and more increasingly innovative solutions, including changes at the level of policy and regulations, are being looked into by governments across the world.