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Volvo looks at in-car cameras to monitor drivers

Volvo to install driver-monitoring cameras and sensors in next-gen cars

Published: March 20, 2019, 10:30 PM
Updated: March 26, 2019, 12:54 AM

Volvo car interior driver-monitoring camera

Volvo is turning its attention to safety on drivers, announcing that it would look at addressing driver issues with distraction and intoxication by installing in-car cameras, starting in the next generation of vehicles.

Volvo car interior with driver-monitoring cameras at top of A-pillars

Aiming to eliminate traffic fatalities, the Chinese-owned Swedish company has already announced a reduction in the top speed of all its vehicles, and it is now hoping to address problems with intoxication and distraction at the wheel through the use of in-car cameras and other sensors.

Quoting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics that show that nearly 30% of all 2017 US traffic fatalities involved intoxicated drivers, Volvo said it would use the driver-monitoring cameras and sensors as part of a broader system that may take different courses of action, such as reducing speed, automatically alerting Volvo on Call, or autonomously pulling over and parking the vehicle.

Volvo car interior with driver-monitoring camera at top of A-pillar

“When it comes to safety, our aim is to avoid accidents altogether rather than limit the impact when an accident is imminent and unavoidable,” says Henrik Green, Senior Vice President, Research & Development at Volvo Cars. “In this case, cameras will monitor for behaviour that may lead to serious injury or death.”

The sensors would monitor steering input (to detect an extended lack of input), the driver’s eyes (to detect if they’re closed or watching something other than the road, again for extended periods of time), and excessive steering or delayed reaction times.

Volvo driver-monitoring system actions

The driver monitoring system would naturally tie into the autonomous driving systems, in order to have the car take driving decisions out of the driver’s hands.

“There are many accidents that occur as a result of intoxicated drivers,” says Trent Victor, Professor of Driver Behaviour at Volvo Cars. “Some people still believe that they can drive after having had a drink, and that this will not affect their capabilities. We want to ensure that people are not put in danger as a result of intoxication.”

Trent Victor, Volvo Senior Technical Leader Crash Avoidance

The cameras will start to make their way into Volvo cars in the next generation of Volvo’s scalable vehicle platform (SPA2) early in the coming decade. Decisions have not been made about how many cameras would be installed and where they would be positioned.

As with other recent Volvo initiatives, the company wants to start the dialogue about whether car companies have the right and/or obligation to create and install systems that will force changes in driver behaviour.