Autonomous – or self-driving – vehicles are the future, there’s little doubt about that.
The autonomous cars of the not-too-distant future will be required to navigate unaided through traffic, avoid pedestrians, bicycles and obstructions and respond appropriately and reliably to changing road conditions, including sudden events. Driving will be easier, more comfortable – and safer – for the driver and passengers.
But for their significant potential as a safer alternative to be realised, the self-driving vehicles currently being developed must undergo rigorous and repeated tests under laboratory and real-world conditions.
Test driving autonomous vehicles on public roads is crucial to the ongoing research and enhancement of their technology: they need many hours out on the road to ‘learn’ to drive. It’s crucial, and it’s also inherently risky.
Automated driving technology is improving all the time, allowing autonomous cars to respond more and more reliably to unexpected, potentially dangerous events. But they’re not yet ready to ‘go it alone’: they still need a backup-driver to intervene at times.
The trouble is, humans are prone to distraction, boredom and fatigue, and the backup-driver may not be sufficiently alert to take the controls when it really matters. Ironically, this is potentially of increasing relevance as the automated technology gets smarter and the events requiring human intervention become fewer.
The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has emphasised the contribution of compromised backup-driver alertness in accidents involving autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, and recommends the use of driver monitoring systems in test vehicles in order to mitigate the risk.
Seeing Machines has launched its new Guardian Backup-driver Monitoring System (BdMS) to specifically address this need. Guardian BdMS is specially designed to be retro-fitted in current test fleet semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles (Society of Automotive Engineers [SAE] Levels 3 to 5), and it can be tailored to the needs of test fleet owners and operators.
The Guardian BdMS uses Seeing Machines’ FOVIO driver monitoring technology to track driver alertness and identify distraction events. An unobtrusive in-car camera continuously monitors the driver’s face and eyes, and the system relays real-time data and video back to base, where it can be synchronised with other vehicle or data inputs. The system can also be configured to trigger escalating alerts (visual, audible and vibratory) that are designed to warn the backup-driver in real time of their fatigue or distraction, whether or not the automated driving system is activated.
The Guardian BdMS operates under real-world lighting and weather conditions, both day and night; accommodates the wearing of glasses, sunglasses, jewellery, cosmetics, caps and headscarves ; and can be customised to suit a range of vehicles and user requirements.
Seeing Machines has been in the business of driver monitoring technology since 2010, and is recognised internationally for its innovations in this arena. The Guardian BdMS is the latest Seeing Machines product to benefit from this enviable pedigree.
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