The interior of a car is an incredibly demanding environment for a Driver Monitoring System. The system needs to be able to perform under a wide range of conditions, including vibration, heat, cold, extreme lighting conditions, as well as occupants who wear sunglasses, hats or face masks. At the same time, a Driver Monitoring System relies on some very complex technology that takes years to develop and refine.
As a result, few manufacturers in the world are truly capable of delivering Driver Monitoring System software that lives up to the high standards of the global automotive industry. This is why Euro NCAP needs to thoroughly test and evaluate different Driver Monitoring Systems, basing their rating on their performance and complexity. Deciding exactly how to assess different types of technologies and features is a very important part of the OSM group’s job, and the work is far from finished. But at this point, these are a few examples of features we know will make a difference for the rating of a Driver Monitoring System and, in extension, an entire car model: behavioral detection, the camera, occlusion and warning and intervention effectiveness.
What’s the point of a Driver Monitoring System if it lacks the ability to actually change the behavior of the driver and prevent an accident? This is why warning and intervention effectiveness is so important. The best systems are able to determine which type of warning or intervention is the most helpful based on the behavior of the driver, and effectively activate it.
When assessing a Driver Monitoring System, Euro NCAP will also need to test how well it handles occlusion. In perfect conditions, the driver’s face is fully visible and evenly lit. But for use in real-life conditions, a driver monitoring system needs to be able to recognize drivers who wear sunglasses, hats and face masks, and deliver reliable results in less-than-ideal lighting. It also needs to be able to notify the driver if an object blocks the view of the camera – like a cellphone being held up in front of the driver’s face.
The camera is an essential feature of a highly rated Driver Monitoring System. Compared to other methods for detecting distraction or drowsiness, a camera is far superior in terms of quickly determining the state of the driver. And should worst come to worst, every second is valuable. Combined with eye tracking software, a camera-based system can keep up with the inner workings of the driver’s mind better than any other type of system–offering far more exact results than, for example, a system that only uses lane swerving, acceleration, or steering wheel hand sensors. The problem with these types of technologies is that they are only able to identify drowsiness and distraction once the driver is departing from their lane or falling asleep – at which point it might already be too late. Camera-based systems with eye tracking technology, on the other hand, can prevent potential impairment by detecting distraction or drowsiness before the driving performance is affected. Euro NCAP refers to camera-based systems as direct driver monitoring, which will be necessary for a car model to receive a five-star rating in the future
A Driver Monitoring System might be able to detect when a driver is distracted, but can it determine what is causing the distraction? In the 2023 update of Euro NCAP’s assessment protocol, the extent of a Driver Monitoring System’s behavioral detection can make the difference between two scores. Identifying the source of the distraction is important for determining what safety measures should be activated by the system.
The more advanced systems can, for example, use object detection to identify a phone in the driver’s hand, follow their gaze up and down the display and conclude that the driver is distracted by their phone.In this situation, a useful response might be for the system to issue a warning – bringing the driver’s attention back to the road.