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Driver Monitoring Makes ADAS Safer

March 16, 2021

Author: Mike Demler

Presentations of new autonomous-vehicle (AV) technologies often begin with these grim statistics: every year, more than a million people worldwide die in motor-vehicle accidents, 95% of which result from human error or negligence. The premise is that self-driving cars will eliminate most of these accidents. But autonomous (Level 4–5) models will be rare for at least 10 years; a more immediate solution is to assist rather than replace the driver. One useful approach is to include an AI-enabled driver-monitoring system (DMS), which can ensure safe operation of the vehicle.

By definition, an ADAS should provide assistance that improves safety, but the introduction of partial automation (so-called Level 2+) often causes drivers to become inattentive, texting or watching videos instead of keeping their eyes on the road. Combining an ADAS with a DMS can prevent such unsafe behavior by ensuring drivers remain alert and in control of the vehicles and disabling the automation or limiting operation if they’re not.

Because a DMS requires special-purpose computer-vision (CV) and neural-network models, algorithm developers are the leading suppliers of this technology. Some work with automotive-camera vendors, using ASICs, FPGAs, or general-purpose processors to run their software. Others create more-advanced models better suited to ADAS chips that include DLAs.

Partly because of the dangers that come with partial automation, safety-rating organizations such as the Euro New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) are adding DMSs to the list of capabilities necessary to achieve five stars, the highest designation. In the US, the NHTSA is slower to adopt such advanced safety technologies, but carmakers are likely to include them anyway to avoid expensive lawsuits. According to ABI Research, only 50,000 DMSs shipped in 2019, but the new standards should increase annual shipments exponentially over the next three years to more than 20 million units.

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