In its first ranking of automated driving systems, Consumer Reports rated GM's Cadillac Super Cruise better than systems from Tesla, Nissan and Volvo because it includes a camera inside the car to monitor driver attentiveness.
The big picture: Driver monitoring systems are needed in semi-automated cars because drivers still have to stay engaged. They also raise questions about how much monitoring consumers will tolerate in the name of safety. Nose-pickers and cursers, take note.
How it works: The Super Cruise system, available in the Cadillac CT6, takes control of the car only on limited-access highways that GM has already mapped.
- Once activated, a small infrared camera tracks the driver’s eyes to assess whether they’re watching the road.
- If they're not, they get flashing lights on the steering wheel and the seat vibrates. If the driver does not respond, the car will come to a safe stop.
What they're saying: Consumer Reports found the Super Cruise system strikes the right balance between high-tech capability and safety.
- GM says the camera isn't recording anything; it's just a buffered video feed to make sure Super Cruise works as it should.
- Its low-res infrared camera can't identify you; it just tracks your eyes and face, Navigant Research analyst Sam Abuelsamid says.
- Knowing the driver's situation will be essential in future safety systems, says Jake Fisher, CR's director of auto testing. "This is not a privacy issue; it's a safety issue."
Down the road, driver monitoring systems will be everywhere as cars get more automated, says Rajeev Thakur, an AV sensor expert at Osram Opto Semiconductors. Having cameras inside shared AV fleets could be a check against illegal behavior or help to monitor the condition of the vehicle.
Yes, but: As higher resolution cameras proliferate in the name of safety, there's a real chance they can be misused to invade privacy, Abuelsamid says.
- Automakers are already collecting information from your car today, but mostly for vehicle analytics. The majority of policies explicitly state: Your car's data belongs to you.
- New efforts to personalize your vehicle experience, like GM's in-dash Marketplace, require you to opt in so they can share your information with retailers.
- That privacy protection might not apply when you are riding in a robo-taxi run by a fleet company.
"When you give up ownership of the vehicle, you also give up ownership of your data."— Sam Abuelsamid
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