Carmakers test technology

Carmakers test technology

GM (which own Chevrolet in photo), Toyota and VW are all testing systems that either nudge the driver or alert them when they are not paying attention to the road. The so-called driver monitoring systems are designed to determine if you are falling asleep or if you being distracted and cannot drive safely, the first of these new systems could be available as soon as next year. These artificial intelligence systems watch the driver and evaluate their fitness to be behind the wheel but just what the automated system is going to do if it determines you are unfit to be behind the wheel no one is quite prepared to say.

With the improvement in addition to more and more Internet connected entertainment automation technologies in cars the researchers are now putting their attention to doing something about what the researchers are saying, all the entertainment is distracting drivers. There are serious concerns amongst driver groups about maintaining their privacy with the systems in the vehicle but all of the technology providers say the same thing, data collected by a car is the property of the vehicle's owner, and they cannot legally release it without the written permission of the owner or having a court order issued. The biggest concern for driver groups is that there are almost no laws in place now that cover in car data collection.

One of the biggest concerns this technology is setting out to address is that the biggest cause of driver distraction is the use of cell phones and other mobile devices, research suggests drivers who type the text message whilst driving are six times more likely to be involved in an accident and those who answer a phone, look up contact or just browse the Internet are three times more likely to crash. A lot of people are now saying that these driver monitoring systems are being created to fix a problem that was created by automation technology in the first place.

Surprisingly, behind cell phones, the next biggest cause of distraction for drivers is cars with radar enhanced cruise control and lane keeping technology, both of which are sold as safety features but tend to make the driver less attentive, the driver thinks the car can do it all. A specialist lawyer who researches liability issues associated with autonomous vehicles, Bryant Walker Smith, law professor at the University of South Carolina said “we are replacing one set of risks and creating a whole new set of risks”.

There is another industry with parallel experience using automation and that is the aviation industry, the FAA just completed a report that noted pilots recently involved in either crashes or near misses lacked the skill necessary to take over a plane when it's autopilot failed. Today in the aviation industry 90% of the flying is done by computers, and the FAA believes that has led to a decline in skills of flight crew.

A major difficulty with any automation technology is its ability to understand what the person it is monitoring is actually doing, if the system thinks you are being inattentive but you are not how is that conflict going to be resolved. Today most car manufacturers agree the last thing they would expect a driver monitoring system to do is to actually take over control of the vehicle, generally they expect driver monitoring systems to warn the driver in various different ways when the system believes they should be warned that they are not doing what is expected.