IT’S AN OLD-FASHIONED IDEA that drivers manage their cars, steering them straight and keeping them out of trouble. In the emerging era of smart vehicles, it’s the cars that will manage their drivers. We’re not talking about the now-familiar assistance technology that helps drivers stay in their lanes or parallel park. We’re talking about cars that by recognizing the emotional and cognitive states of their drivers can prevent them from doing anything dangerous.
There are already some basic driver-monitoring tools on the market. Most of these systems use a camera mounted on the steering wheel, tracking the driver’s eye movements and blink rates to determine whether the person is impaired—perhaps distracted, drowsy, or drunk.
But the automotive industry has begun to realize that measuring impairment is more complicated than just making sure that the driver’s eyes are on the road, and it requires a view beyond just the driver. These monitoring systems need to have insight into the state of the entire vehicle—and everyone in it—to have a full understanding of what’s shaping the driver’s behavior and how that behavior affects safety.