Say Goodbye to Driving Sleepiness: Eye-Tracking Technology to Help Drivers Remain Focused

First Posted: Sep 12, 2016 05:40 AM EDT

Google is quite certain that the future belongs to driverless vehicles but while that time comes, a trend has emerged to improve the driver's skills. Soon, cars are to have a built-in system that will keep an eye out for a sleepy driver.

General Motors Co., US's largest auto maker too aims to release its Super Cruise on a Cadillac next year that will feature eye tracking in the cabin. This is the first time a U.S. car maker has taken a step in that direction. Last Year, Seeing Machines, an Australia based company had created a compact system for monitoring the driver. By using infrared lights and built-in cameras, the devices captured images and extracts relevant information from the photos.

The coming year, General Motors is going to duel with Volvo's Pilot Assist and Tesla Motors's Autopilot, both driver-assistance systems that can control a moving vehicle. Tesla's Autopilot requires periodic control by the driver whereas GM's system is expected to increase the alertness of human drivers.

The Super Cruise's 2017 launch is going to be amongst a scrutiny of systems using cameras, sensors and radar to let the car do the driving at higher speeds. In May a deadly accident involving the Tesla's Autopilot had raised questions about how well these technologies work.

What's new?

Like other such Techs before it, GM's Super Cruise software can also detect if a driver has dozed off or isn't watching the road. The tech uses audible as well as visual alerts to grab the driver's attention. Not just this, if the alerts go unnoticed a representative of the auto maker's OnStar information service will activate the intercom and communicate with the driver. However, If the driver still doesn't respond the car will itself pull over on the side and stop.

The Detroit car maker has tested the eye-tracking system for a couple of years now and hopes to be leading its domestic competitors. GM hasn't yet officially announced the cost of the feature.

Mark Reuss, executive vice president of GM said, "The current way by which some of the auto makers monitor alertness of the driver is by monitoring the periodic touch on the steering wheel and that isn't sufficient because you can pretty readily defeat the hands-on-the-wheel devices." And that is why GM is going to use something that's pretty hard to get around, he added.

GM had a plan to launch the Super Cruise earlier but for several reasons the program was delayed. Mr. Reuss said that one of the GM's main goals is to refine the way by which the drivers interact with the semi-autonomous system. The extra layer of supervision of the Super Cruise will address concerns raised by regulators about a driver's tendency of not paying attention when a driving aid is active.

German auto makers that includes Audi are also expected to launch new eye-tracking systems in the future. Mr. Reuss stated that driver monitoring is one of the piece of GM's approach to a safer and well maintained self-driving platform. He added that Super Cruise will be limited only to highways that have detailed map information available. If the driver decide to leave the highway, Super Cruise will automatically shut down.

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