Having a camera inside your car is not a new concept. However, this new model introduced at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week could be a game changer when it comes to driver safety.
Guardian’s In-Car Camera Watches the Driver—And Everyone Else
Optical Cabin Control (OCC) is a new single-sensor system equipped with an optical camera and a variety of safety monitoring capabilities to keep drivers alert and aware. Created by Guardian Optical Technologies, an Israel based start-up, OCC is designed to be paired with autonomous cars to help reduce the number of accidents on the road caused by driver errors. In addition, OCC comes with features that detect a number of other safety concerns that can cause injuries and unnecessary fatalities to drivers and their passengers.
How It Works
OCC may look like just a small camera next to your rearview mirror, however, the technology behind it is quite complex. This system uses a multi-layer sensor with a powerful artificial intelligence engine that uses 2D, 3D, and motion analysis to create ‘passenger aware’ vehicles. The system is constantly scanning the inside of the car, looking to assess driver and passenger actions to see if they might be dangerous enough to cause an accident. The camera picks up behaviors such as when a driver…
- takes their hands off the wheel
- looks back towards passengers in the vehicle
- looks down at a cell phone
- closes their eyes
- points their head away from the road or direction they are going in
The original idea behind OCC was to detect when children were left in the backseat to prevent unnecessary heatstroke deaths and illnesses. Now, in addition to this monitoring capability, the system can tell when a passenger seat is empty or occupied, activate or deactivate the airbag, verify seat belts are being used, as well as look for distracting behaviors that could lead the driver to take their eyes off the road.
Making Self-Driving Cars Safer
It’s no question that autonomous vehicles are the future, but they are far from perfect. Several accidents that have occurred since self-driving cars have launched testing programs have revealed the need for more safety features to address the dangers that are still present when a driver is not looking at the road.
In March 2018, the driver of a self-driving Tesla in Silicon Valley, California was operating the car on “autopilot” when he was killed after the car suddenly sped up and crashed into a concrete barrier at over 70 mph. Within the same month, another fatal accident involving a self-driving Uber in Tempe, Arizona resulted in a pedestrian fatality when the car did not break for a cyclist crossing the road and the driver was not paying attention to intervene.
By installing OCC, Guardian hopes to make autonomous cars safer in instances where drivers put too much faith into their vehicles “autopilot” mode. Until the technology for self-driving vehicles becomes more advanced it’s important for drivers to remain alert and to pay attention to their surroundings. This camera system can help increase positive driving behaviors that could ultimately make autonomous vehicles safer to operate and reduce preventable accidents caused by distractions or other dangerous behaviors.
Getting Automakers On Board
Optical Cabin Control could be life-changing for many drivers on the road but that doesn’t mean automakers are jumping at the chance to use it. An article published by WIRED last week highlighted the resistance that some automakers currently have toward implementing the OCC system, mostly coming down to cost. The majority of new cars on the market have multiple sensors throughout the vehicle to detect some of the safety features OCC addresses such as passenger occupancy and seat belt awareness. Replacing all of those sensors with a single based camera system could be pricey and tricky. Not all parts of the cars are made by the same department and it would require a ton of networking between engineers to make a single-sensor work effectively throughout the entire vehicle.
Privacy Issues and Public Backlash
Automakers may eventually fall in line with installing systems such as OCC in new and autonomous vehicles but will the public buy them? The WIRED article points out that not everyone is onboard with being watched consistently in their car. Privacy is a huge concern with camera systems such as OCC and could spark a public backlash against the technology. Consumers who are more supportive of the advancement of autonomous vehicles will most likely be on board with the extra safety features. However, other car owners having to give up even more control over their vehicles will be hard to convince.
The Future of Safety
If autonomous cars are our future, it is safe to say that Optical Cabin Control monitoring systems probably are too. Until then, drivers operating any type of vehicle should continue to use safe driving habits to help prevent injuries and fatalities caused by distracted driving. Keeping your eyes on the road, avoiding the use of electronic devices, and never driving fatigued or impaired will help keep all motorists and passengers on the road safe until cars begin driving all on their own.