Automakers To Fight Distracted Driving With New Technology

GM is the latest to plan for cameras to watch drivers actions

General Motors is taking the fight against distracted driving from billboards and public-service announcements into its cars, deploying new technology that keeps an eye on where the driver's are glancing.

GM is partnering with Australian company Seeing Machines and Japanese safety supplier Takata to provide GM with eye- and head-tracking technology for 500,000 new cars over the next three to five years, according to Financial Times.

Cameras inside the vehicles will monitor the driver's head and eye movements. By measuring the rotation of the head, the cameras will alert drivers if they are not spending enough time keeping their eyes on the road. GM hopes to use the cameras initially for safety, but Seeing Machines CEO Ken Kroeger told the news outlet the technology could easily be expanded to be useful for other features, such as motion-activated apps or preventing unapproved drivers from starting a car.

Luxury automakers such as Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and BMW have featured technologies aimed at curbing distracted driving for years. Mercedes' Attention Assist technology tracks driving patterns to detect when a driver might be nodding off behind the wheel and even suggests a cup of coffee to the driver with a light on the dashboard. Like all advanced automotive features, the tech seems to be trickling down from luxury brands to more modest cars. Automotive supplier Delphi will feature its system, known as the Driver State Sensor and Workload Manager, on a Dodge Charger next week at the 2014 World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems.

Distracted driving is on everyone's radar. Texting while driving, in particular, has been the target of shocking public service announcements and ad campaigns in recent years. These cameras could notice when a driver has their head down or to the side looking at a cellphone and issue a warning.

The motion-sensor cameras have the potential to curb not only texting while driving, but other forms of distracted driving that threaten the safety of motorists. A study last year from the Erie Insurance Group found that 12 percent of fatal car accidents involved cellphones, while 62 percent found drivers who were simply not paying attention when the fatal crash occurred.

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