Smile! GM may use cameras to combat distracted driving

2015 Cadillac ATS
How would you react if your car started staring at you?

As more technology finds its way into cars, distracted driving is only going to become more of a problem. General Motors may be trying to solve that problem by pointing cameras at drivers.

According to the Financial Times (sub. required), GM is planning to incorporate tech that tracks eye and head movement into future cars.

Australian company Seeing Machines recently signed an agreement with automotive supplier Takata to provide tracking devices for up to 500,000 vehicles per year over the next three to five years, the report says. GM has not confirmed these plans

The devices will be able to monitor the rotation of a driver’s head, and warn the meat bag behind the wheel when he or she isn’t spending enough time looking at the road ahead.

Cameras would record movements, and Seeing Machines has developed an algorithm that recognizes facial features and orient them in relation to the environment.

Related: Apple CarPlay may not be safer than texting while driving

While the initial goal would be increased safety, analysts believe this technology could have other applications that, ironically, feed into the same connected-car trend that is making distracted driving such a big issue.

The system could be used, for example, to allow a driver to “push” a button just by looking at it.

Besides allowing people to pretend they have telekinetic powers, this would allow drivers to keep their hands on the wheel more. However, it would also require them to look away – at a button or screen – and simply thinking about a secondary task could be distracting in its own right.

There’s also the question of whether onboard cameras will save videos of drivers, and who will have access to them. Will police be able to use video records for investigations? Where do drivers’ rights come into play?

People in cars aren’t invisible, but they’re generally considered private places. Would you want someone to be able to review everything you do behind the wheel?

It’s a complicated issue. Just putting the phone down seems a lot simpler.

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