Smile... You're on (Your Car's) Camera!


Camera lenses on a white background.
Photo by Anna Auza on Unsplash

We're told endlessly that the self-driving car is the near future. And yet... as year after year passes, it's clear that the technology is perhaps not as forthcoming as we have been led to believe. While the day will certainly come when self-driving cars grace our streets, that day will not be tomorrow. In the meantime, sophisticated driver assistance technologies are filling in the gaps where self-driving technology has yet to deliver.


In an article for the Los Angeles Times, Russ Mitchell looks at how this technology is attempting to ease us towards a self-driving future, and how one technology in particular is standing out from the rest.


Mitchell voices a healthy trepidation about driver assistance technologies, not only for their efficiency, but for what they ask of us as drivers:


"But with features such as automated cruise control, steering assist and automatic highway lane changing, new cars come loaded with driver-assist options. As they proliferate, the task of a human driver is beginning to shift from operating the vehicle to supervising the systems that do so. That development carries promise and peril. Decades of research make clear that humans aren't good at paying attention in that way."

While it may seem that driver assistance technology will take over for us as drivers, the reality is that they will instead require different things from us drivers, new skills that will be imperative in an increasingly technological driving environment.


Colin Barnden, a market analyst at Semicast Research who Mitchell interviewed for the piece, worries that we aren't yet equipped to face this new landscape:


"On the plus side, such technologies can reduce driving stress and, if deployed responsibly, improve safety. At the same time, the less input a car needs from a human driver, the harder it is for that driver to remain vigilant. Humans aren't good at "monitoring things, waiting for something to go wrong. We just aren't wired to do that," Barnden said."

This is where technology that monitors your behaviour comes in. This is the technology that will sense if you're drifting off or not paying attention to the road and signal to you. Mitchell identifies two basic forms of this technology: eye tracking and steering wheel sensing. Those that Mitchell spoke to argued that technology that utilizes a camera is much better than technology that uses the steering wheel to sense a driver's behaviour. A big factor in this is that cameras are much harder to trick, or unintentionally deceive, than steering wheel sensing. Camera-focused technology brings with it its own unique set of concerns, however. Like data privacy and what companies will do with the data that is derived from our vehicles.


Regardless, advanced vehicle technology is here to stay, and these tug-of-wars between different technological systems are of huge importance as they will help decide what the future car will look like... and how safe it will be.


For more, check out the original article in the Los Angeles Times.