Imagine if the invention of the car came with a warning sign. The words “will eventually be responsible for the death of 1.24 million people a year” would likely cause it to be dismissed as too dangerous to use, and maybe a horse-drawn carriage would still be a common mean of transportation. But in reality, the dangers of driving is something that has become increasingly apparent as the number of cars in the world has skyrocketed – now believed to surpass a billion. And while automakers keep finding innovative ways to make their cars safer, one important aspect of driving remains unchanged since the launch of the very first car: the driver. We have yet to find a way to program away driver drowsiness or inattention – both leading causes behind fatal car accidents. However, Smart Eye has found a way to avoid letting these common human errors cause deadly crashes.
For now, the solution is not as simple as removing the driver from the equation. While the idea of autonomous driving is captivating, most experts agree that safe, fully self-driving cars are quite a few years away. Meanwhile, as human-operated cars keep increasing around the world, legislators are beginning to understand the importance of driver monitoring in order to prevent heavily trafficked roads from becoming death traps. The European Union and China are well on their way towards making driver monitoring systems mandatory in all new vehicles, and the United States is preparing for a trillion-dollar investment in all-around safer roads. From the looks of it, the next decade could bring us closer to eliminating the dangers of driving than ever before.
In Europe, the consequences of distracted driving have left significant mark. Out of 35 000 fatal car accidents each year, almost 40 per cent can be attributed to an inattentive driver. But the European Union has recently taken important steps toward decreasing road crashes.
In November 2019, the EU Council of Ministers passed a general safety regulation mandating automakers to install advanced safety systems in all new cars on the EU market. These advanced safety systems include camera-based driver monitoring to detect inattention or drowsiness in the driver, and to issue a warning if driver distraction is identified. The new regulations will be gradually implemented over the course of four years, starting in 2022 with all new type-approved cars with a certain level of autonomous driving capability. By 2026, the law will include all newly produced cars on the EU market, no matter their level of automation. With the new regulation in place, it is believed at least 140,000 serious injuries will be have been avoided by 2038.
While legislation is a slow process, Euro NCAP has taken a quicker, but effective, path in their work to improve traffic safety. In the next update of Euro NCAP’s safety measuring systems, driver monitoring will be included as one of the primary safety features required for any car model looking to receive the sought-after five-star safety rating – setting the standard for all OEMs operating on the European market.
To find out more about how Euro NCAP’s next assessment protocol will affect the automotive market, and what it takes for a car model to receive a five-star safety rating, read our e-book: The Next Seatbelt – How Euro NCAP will make DMS the New Safety Standard.
One of the most dramatic examples of how quickly the number of cars in the world is increasing can be found in China. In 2018 alone, 4.3 million buses and trucks were sold – making up just a small portion of the vehicles introduced on Chinese roads every year.
In order to keep up with these rapid developments, regulations mandating the installation of driver monitoring technology in vehicles are under way – in select provinces as well as on a national level. Back in 2018, Jiangsu was the first province to implement regulations requiring long distance trucks and vehicles transporting hazardous goods to use driver monitoring, and a national notice is anticipated in 2020. But these regulations are only to be seen as a first step, as notices including other types of vehicles are expected to follow.
The United States is one of the world’s busiest countries in terms of road traffic, and consequently suffers more road crash casualties than any other high-income country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 35,000 people are killed in crashes on U.S. roads every year.
However, an important step towards decreasing these numbers was taken on July 1st, 2020, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Moving Forward Act – a 1.5 trillion-dollar infrastructure bill committed to making roads safer. One of the safety measures included in the bill is to make installation of technology that detects inattentive or intoxicated driving required in newly produced vehicles. However, before the Moving Forward Act can become a law, it needs to pass the senate as well as be signed by the President.
Another bill investigating how the use of driver monitoring systems can improve road safety is the “Stay Aware For Everyone” (SAFE) Act of 2020, which is part of a broader surface transportation reauthorization legislation. Just like the Moving Forward Act, the SAFE Act proposes for the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct research into how driver monitoring systems could minimize driver distraction associated with an increased reliance on advanced driver-assistance systems. This could in turn lead to regulations that require driver monitoring technology to be installed in all new vehicles. Should this current version of the SAFE Act pass, automotive manufacturers would be mandated to adapt to the new legislation within four to six years.
As devoted advocates for safer roads, Smart Eye are the first to welcome regulations that are expected to decrease accidents caused by driver distraction. But for us, these types of regulations signify security in a double sense of the word. Regulations that make driver monitoring systems a given in new cars are highly-effective measures that, apart from making our roads safer, also offers a sense stability for Smart Eye as a leader of innovation in the automotive industry – even in times as uncertain as these.
With driver monitoring as a standard feature in all new car models, Smart Eye has the opportunity to further establish ourselves on the automotive market. Let’s say an OEM is currently installing eye tracking technology into, for example, 10 percent of their new car models. Regulations mandating driver monitoring in all new vehicles will quickly bump that number up to 100 percent. And with millions of vehicles being produced each year, this makes quite a difference for Smart Eye’s position in the automotive industry.
We cannot, nor would we want to, turn back the clock and stop cars from becoming part of our everyday lives. But we can break the developments that point towards road traffic injuries becoming the fifth leading cause of death worldwide by 2030. And in order to succeed, legislation and regulations are among our most powerful tools.