From 2020, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) and the Euro NCAP will include driver distraction technology as part of their testing.
The new technology is designed to monitor and detect signs of fatigue, distraction or medical events in drivers. Using in-car cameras, it looks at the driver’s eyes and measures steering wheel inputs to detect when the driver is not paying full attention to the road.
If the driver is detected to be impaired or distracted, the vehicle will alert the driver to bring attention back to the road; if no change in behavior is detected, the technology can force the car to slow down or come to a stop.
The main focus of driver distraction technology is to eliminate fatigued or distracted driving, but there are high hopes that the technology will work in conjunction with NSW’s new mobile detection cameras to further reduce mobile phone usage while driving.
The new testing will be adopted by ANCAP ahead of the introduction of intelligent speed assistance (ISA) in Europe, which will roll out in 2022 and be compulsory for all new cars by 2024.
Similar to driver distraction technology, the ISA will issue a warning to the driver if the vehicle is detected to have exceeded the local speed limit (using GPS data). Just like the aforementioned technology, if no change in behavior is detected from the driver, the vehicle will then be slowed automatically to match the speed limit.
Although some consider driver distraction technology to be a violation of privacy, there’s no denying that reducing the number of accidents (both fatal and non-fatal) caused by distracted or impaired drivers will be immeasurably beneficial for all who share the road.
However, like all new technology, nobody knows for sure if there will be unexpected drawbacks. In 2018, a distracted uber driver failed to notice a cyclist while riding in a self-driving car, resulting in a fatal accident. This incident highlights that technology can be used to assist drivers but cannot be used in lieu of paying full attention to the road.