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Driver Monitoring Systems Need to Level Up

BYU-Idaho Radio · Driver Monitoring Systems Need to Level Up

Many new vehicles have advanced features designed to make driving easier. Adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, among others promise to lift some of the burden of attentive driving, but do they live up to the hype?

According to AAA, a lot of drivers rely on these features, but they may not be as reliable as we’d like. 

Matthew Conde, the public affairs director for AAA Idaho, has heard many stories of drivers taking it to the extreme. 

“We’ve heard some horror stories of drivers that are trying to read books, watch movies, sit in the back seat while the vehicle is in motion," Conde said. 

To combat the over reliance on advanced features, vehicle manufacturers have created driver monitoring systems designed to alert drivers when they show signs of inattention. The two systems include direct, which has a driver-facing camera to watch what the driver does, and indirect, which relies solely on interaction with the steering wheel. Each gives an alert when the driver shows signs of distraction. 

AAA put these systems to the test in a real world environment. 

Using a limited-access toll road, AAA tested the driver monitoring systems of four vehicles to test their ability to detect multiple types of simulated distraction. 

“We were able to beat the system by doing some different things to avoid being noticed," Conde said. 

During the test, the indirect systems allowed five minutes of distracted driving out of 10 minutes, and the direct systems allowed two minutes. 

“It’s a significant amount of time where you’re traveling the length of football fields or maybe entire miles before the system is catching anything going wrong," Conde said. “And obviously with a system that’s designed to do that, we need to see some refinement.”

Conde suggests it would be best if the monitoring systems shut off after a certain number of inattention alerts to force drivers to take control. 

Although that system is not available, AAA Idaho urges drivers to pay attention to the road, regardless of what technology you have or don’t have. 

“Our mission should be that we’re not going to have empty seats at the family table. We’re going to make sure everybody gets where they need to go safely, and part of that is taking on the responsibility for ourselves to not drive distracted,” Conde said.