As fatigue kicks in, the driver loses concentration, especially while driving on a monotonous stretch at steady speeds for a fairly long time. This could result in loss of attention, potentially leading to a collision. This, sometimes, is fatal not only to the driver and occupants but also for other road users. Several road accidents are caused due to driver error where he/she loses attention on the road due to several reasons such as drowsiness, distraction, state of intoxication, unexpected emotional state, or health impairment. Several Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are looking to increase the fitment of driver monitoring systems in their vehicle model line-up.

DMS and Snags Involved in Implementation

The Driver Monitoring System (DMS) analyzes driver behavior or detects a pattern tending toward micro-sleep to issue appropriate warnings to alert the driver and revive their attention. This can help bring the attention of the driver back onto the road and reduce sleep-related crashes. Even though certain OEMs are working toward employing such a technology in passenger vehicles today to promote safety, legislative bodies across the globe are not motivated to make it obligatory. The UNECE opines that DMS fitment does not directly result in crash reduction, and therefore does not intend to require this system by law. The hardware required for DMS today is capable of harboring five-to-six functions, out of which, driver drowsiness detection is the only safety function. However, to achieve this, existing steering angle sensors with additional software are sufficient and make for a cost-effective solution. With an increase in the number of features, extra camera-based systems need to be coupled along with supplementary software. Without a proper mandate and an imminent cost impact, the ball is now in the individual OEMs’ court to decide as to the number of functions they need to provide to make the most of the hardware by sharing the cost implication across functions.

A Safety Enabler or Mere Luxury?

There are two types of DMS hardware: behavior-based such as steering angle sensors and sensors on the steering wheel (when present) or vision-based such as an infrared stereo or mono camera with lane assist. A newer option under the vision-based systems is an Infrared (IR) camera concealed inside the cabin. The system also validates driver behavior, monitoring several other factors such as vehicle speed, turn indicators, and so on. An appropriate combination of these hardware solutions is coupled with a supporting algorithm on the steering Electronic Control Unit (ECU), which calculates the drowsiness index. In addition to this, the vision-based system can also be used for facial recognition to distinguish different car users and automatically adjust the vehicle settings according to the preloaded input based on the current driver. This system can take human-machine interactivity interface to receive audio-visual inputs, augmenting present day advanced voice input commands. Hence, drivers can have their hands on the steering wheel while being able to carry out most operations using voice commands, allowing them to focus on the driving activity. Driver identification, hands on steering detection, gesture recognition, and most importantly drowsiness detection are a few major functions available today. While the inward looking camera is centered to benefit more Human-machine Interface (HMI) functions than the safety ones, there needs to be an equal buy-in from both safety and vehicle-interiors departments within an OEM to introduce camera-based DMS systems in the same platform of vehicles.

The Right Choice

Due to addition of hardware and software in the already existing sensor suite, most OEMs are expected to go with traditional chassis sensors for drowsiness detection, bearing the cost increase in mind. OEMs looking at incorporating more than five functions within the DMS module are bound to go with stereo-based camera systems. Adding to the already existing five to six features within DMS, suppliers are trying to bring in advanced features such as mood detection and driver health monitoring to justify the value-for-money in driver monitoring systems and its cost competitive proposition. Secondary features such as mood lighting, based on driver mood detection, and personalized driver settings, based on driver identification, are making way into high-end luxury cars.

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