GM Takes Early Action on Distracted Driving Issue
|   Monday, September 29, 2014
In an unprecedented move, General Motors has acted early on an issue which is gaining traction across the country, distracted driving.

Distracted driving, in this context, includes primarily texting, email and cellphone use. States are slowly coming to grips with this problem by enacting laws prohibiting texting, email or cellphone use while underway in a car. Fines in the states where laws have been enacted range from $200 to $500. Not a moving violation, distracted driving may or may not lead to an increase in your insurance rates as that is up to the discretion of your insurance underwriter.


The problem with distracted driving is that it is tough for a police officer to detect. The way most states have written their distracted driving prohibitions in a manner that requires a police officer to observe the offense directly. For the most part, this is almost impossible at a distance from the car, especially if the car or SUV has tinted windows.

Drivers who are texting or reading email usually do so by keeping their heads up and their hands low so they can use their thumbs while they drive. To read the text or email, the driver always casts a short look either straight down or to the right of left.

This is where GM enters the picture. According to The Financial Times, as many as 500,000 GM cars will incorporate head- and eye-tracking technology will be incorporated over the next three to five years.

According to The Financial Times report, GM's safety component partner, Takata, has signed a contract with Seeing Machines to provide the tracking devices. While GM is taking the lead on this issue, it is especially apparent, when you look at the contract, to see that Ford, Toyota and Volvo have signed on as partners to obtain the Fovio device from the Australian company.

Lexus has used a Driver Attention Monitor for some time. The system determines the amount of time the driver's eyes are off the road and if it reaches the warning threshold an alert sounds.

At the Chicago Auto Show last year, Ford's Lincoln subsidiary displayed a prototype system, Driver Focus that can tell whether a driver's head has turned away from the road. A steering column-mounted camera is at the heart of the system and is the device that keeps tabs on the driver.

Seeing Machines has a different style device called Fovio. It looks like a small Xbox Kinect sensor and can watch, among other things, eye movement, blink rate and can be upgraded to handle other monitoring chores. "Once the cameras are there, they can be expanded on for other features and purposes," Ken Kroeger, CEO of Seeing Machines, noted.

So far, GM is the only company to make a strong commitment to distracted driving. GM, by committing an exact number of vehicles to this program, is the first major manufacturer to act and has taken the lead on this important safety issue.
PHOTO GALLERY
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