Driver and Passenger Monitoring Brings Zero Cabin Privacy

Driver monitoring is key to the growing requirements, globally, for improved road safety, with regulatory and safety bodies in Europe acknowledging its importance.

This trend extends globally as the USA becomes focused on a road safety agenda to address risks posed by emerging semi- and fully-automated vehicle technologies. Europe has taken the lead, Euro NCAP has announced that it requires driver monitoring systems for five-star safety ratings and European General Safety Regulation has mandated the technology for all new cars, vans, trucks and buses from 2024. Meanwhile the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the US has also recommended the use of DMS as an effective means of driver engagement in Level 2 vehicles.

“As vehicles become more automated and until they are capable of handling the driving task 100% of the time, there will always be a requirement for the vehicle to initiate handover back to the driver,” explained Seeing Machines CEO Paul McGlone. “In order for that handover to be conducted effectively, the vehicle must be able to register the attention state of the driver and react accordingly.”

For example, a semi-automated car may be able to drive itself on certain highways and in certain conditions. If, for example it comes to the end of the geofenced or designated area, and the driver is distracted or drowsy, the vehicle needs a mechanism with which to attract their attention (e.g. via haptic or audible alerts), so that it can conduct a safe handover. “Camera based DMS is the only in-cabin, high performance technology, focused directly on the driver, that can provide the vehicle with that critical information,” McGlone said, who noted more advanced sensing technology would likely be required in the future, including radar and LiDAR technologies.

He pointed to the use of radar where occlusion may occur, such as detection of a baby left in rear seat. “In fact, child presence detection will earn rating points from Euro NCAP starting in 2022, so there will be blending of technologies to achieve the required outcome. Therefore, when more technologies are required, it must be assumed that this will impact the cost to some degree.”

Robert Bielby, senior director of automotive systems architecture at Micron, told TU-Automotive that through their conversations with DMS experts, they expect in the future, advanced DMS technologies will also follow the lead of ADAS and support the fusion of various technologies to provide an even richer understanding of the environment within the vehicle cabin. “We expect that the addition of the enriched sensing environment, coupled with additional sensors and associated processing with sensor fusion, will drive increased compute performance requirements which will have an impact on overall cost,” he said. Bielby noted that companies are working on intelligent systems within the vehicle connected to the driver monitoring system capable of advising the driver to pull over and resume driving when the driver is not impaired.

Guidehouse Insights principal analyst Sam Abuelsamid longer-term, high-resolution systems will be used for authentication, whereby the camera recognizes you, can bring up your preferences and authenticate you to use the vehicle. Imaging radar will be used for biometric health monitoring systems to detect of if the driver is having a heart attack, or just to monitor his or her general physical state.

“You can also expect to see things like driver workload monitoring, which will detect pulse and temperature and look for changes, for example an elevated heart rate, which could be used to trigger changes in the vehicle,” Abuelsamid said. “These could include increased sensitively for stability control, or the car automatically turning down the radio and blocking notifications, if there are indicators the driver needs to be more attentive to driving conditions.”

Abuelsamid said some consumers may be concerned about the vehicle being a nanny, and taking too much of their control away, and there are potential concerns about data being transmitted outside the vehicle. “Automakers say the technology is only used for real-time driver assist, frame-to-frame looking for indicators that the driver is not engaged, and none of that data is saved or transmitted,” he said. “There should be a regulation that clearly says that, although I doubt that’s going to happen but automakers need to ensure the data is not saved, in order to maximize privacy.”

He noted that while today the systems are not capable enough for features like face-based authentication, longer term, as they become more sensitive and accurate, people are going to have to consider if that’s a function they want and give up that security and privacy to get the capabilities that come with driver monitoring technology. “When we get to autonomous vehicles and robotaxis, that’s something we’ll have to do,” he said. “You’ve got to keep track of who’s in the vehicle, what they’re doing, as well as authentication for payment.”

This means there will be sensors in those vehicles that can do all those things, as well as tracking someone smoking in the vehicle, or someone who’s gotten sick and thrown up. Abuelsamid concluded: “Riding in a robo-taxi, you will have no privacy. There should be no expectation of that and it is all going to be recorded.”

One comment

  1. Avatar David Gonzales 25th April 2021 @ 9:06 am

    The solution to the implied privacy issue already exists. 4D imaging radar technology, which will be adopted in the cabin for models from 2023 onward is both affordable and mindful of privacy. Although it doesn’t use optics, it is able to reach the resolutions required to monitor the cabin, detect presence and classify between adults, children and objects.

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