Driver Monitoring System

What Is a Driver Monitoring System?

A Driver Monitoring System is a safety feature involving a sensor (usually a camera) within the car’s cockpit that observes the person behind the wheel. It warns drivers when they are drowsy or inattentive to the road and intervenes if the driver has become incapacitated or fails to react to an impending accident.

Benefits of a Driver Monitoring System

Driver Monitoring Systems were initially designed to improve safety. Warning a driver that they are not concentrating on the road can prevent many accidents. In worst-case scenarios, where a driver may have lost consciousness entirely, a vehicle with sophisticated ADAS can bring itself safely to a stop or even pull over to the side of the road using autonomous driving capabilities.

As higher vehicle autonomy levels are legalized and commercially available, Driver Monitor Systems will become increasingly important. For autonomy levels up to and including Level 4, human drivers must remain attentive and ready to take control in an emergency. An effective Driver Monitoring System will be essential for a vehicle’s autonomous system to gain regulatory approval.

The European Union now mandates that all vehicle models must have Driver Monitoring Systems beginning in 2024. The Euro NCAP safety qualification program also adds points to a vehicle’s safety score if it has a Driver Monitoring System onboard, making this an essential feature for obtaining a five-star rating.

Examples of a Driver Monitoring System

Driver Monitoring Systems were first introduced by Toyota in 2006. They have since been implemented as branded solutions, including:

  • Cadillac Super Cruise
  • BMW Extended Traffic Jam Assistant System
  • Seeing Machines Driver Monitoring System (incorporated into ADAS from several manufacturers)

Due to the essential nature of Driver Monitoring Systems for high safety ratings in the future, most manufacturers have begun implementing them in existing vehicles or have announced implementation for imminent new models.

How a Driver Monitoring System Works

Although supplementary functions such as steering wheel touch sensors can augment this, a fully featured Driver Monitoring System works via a camera. This camera could be in the steering column, but it is placed elsewhere within the cabin in some systems, such as the dashboard. The camera is equipped with infrared LEDs or lasers to ensure it can see the driver’s face even at night and eyes even when covered with sunglasses.

The camera tracks the driver’s head, eyes, and face. This data is used to build a baseline model of what they will look like when driving attentively, which is then referred to for identifying signals of the driver not paying attention, intoxicated, or drowsy. Signals could include blinking excessively, tilting the head, or eyes closing. The system could also distinguish between a driver looking at the road ahead and staring absentmindedly. These systems are becoming more sophisticated at detecting inattentive behavior by harnessing AI.

Once the Driver Monitoring System has spotted inattention or the driver appears sleepy, it will generate an alert. Depending on the vehicle and current conditions, this may be audible, visible, or both. Some systems may even vibrate the driver’s seat. If a vehicle is currently in an assisted driving mode that includes self-steering, the alerts may start with a less intrusive alert, steadily increasing until the driver regains attention. 

If the vehicle detects inattention at the same time as a pending emergency, it may automatically apply brakes or control steering to avoid a collision. Some vehicles can also detect driver incapacity and slow down to a complete stop or pull over to the side of the road. This may also make autonomous driving modes unavailable for the remainder of the driving session.

Driver Monitoring System and ADAS

Driver Monitoring Systems will become an increasingly important part of a vehicle’s suite of ADAS features. New capabilities will be added alongside data from other exterior and interior sensors through sensor fusion.

Driver Monitoring Systems may enable more sophisticated gesture-based controls. Cameras with a view of more of the car’s interior could include passenger monitoring. This could enable the Monitoring System to notify a driver leaving their vehicle if they left a child in the rear seat or other objects remaining in the car.

In the future, the identification capabilities of Driver Monitoring Systems could also be harnessed for facial recognition, enabling the car to detect authorized drivers for added security. This system could also automatically activate the individual driver’s personalized settings, adjusting seat position, HVAC, infotainment, and other cabin configurations.

The BlackBerry IVY® platform leverages BlackBerry® QNX®, edge computing, and the cloud to support a future-proof digital ecosystem. It gives developers and automakers a secure, reliable way to share vehicle data, deliver new features and functionality, and fuel both present and future innovation. Backed by BlackBerry expertise, it’s compatible with most OS and cloud platforms, offering advanced personalization and access to our broad development community. 

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