As vehicles get smarter, your car will be keeping eyes on you.
This week at CES, the international consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, a host of startup companies will demonstrate to global automakers how the sensor technology that watches and analyzes drivers, passengers and objects in cars will mean enhanced safety in the short-term, and revenue opportunities in the future.
Whether by generating alerts about drowsiness, unfastened seat belts or wallets left in the backseat, the emerging technology aims not only to cut back on distracted driving and other undesirable behavior, but eventually help automakers and ride-hailing companies make money from data generated inside the vehicle.
In-car sensor technology is deemed critical to the full deployment of self-driving cars, which analysts say is still likely years away in the United States. Right now, self-driving cars are still mainly at the testing stage.
The more sophisticated in-car monitoring also could respond to concerns that technology that automates some – but not all – driving tasks could lead motorists to stop paying attention and not be ready to retake control should the situation demand it.
When self-driving cars gain broad acceptance, the monitoring cameras and the artificial-intelligence software behind them will likely be used to help create a more customized ride for the passengers. Right now, however, such cameras are being used mainly to enhance safety, not unlike a helpful backseat driver.
Interior-facing cameras inside the car are still a novelty, currently found only in the 2018 Cadillac (GM.N) CT6. Audi (VOWG_p.DE) and Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) have developed systems but they are not currently activated. Mazda (7261.T), Subaru (9778.T) and electric vehicle start-up Byton are introducing cars for 2019 whose cameras measure driver inattention. Startup Nauto’s camera and AI-based tech is used by commercial fleets.
Data from the cameras is analyzed with image recognition software to determine whether a driver is looking at his cellphone or the dashboard, turned away, or getting sleepy, to cite a few examples.