ZF's New Camera System Focuses on an Oft-ignored Danger: the Driver

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

The rollout of semi-autonomous driver assist systems designed to turn long highway slogs into stress-free, breezy jaunts isn’t in any way perfected, but OEMs and suppliers are working on it. Depending on who builds what, lane-holding can be dodgy, automatic braking can be capricious, forward-facing cameras and radar can misidentify or ignore objects, and drivers can easily be put on too long a leash, encouraging misuse.

It’s the latter issue that automotive supplier ZF wants to solve with its new interior camera system.

Currently, few vehicles with a true hands-off highway autocruise feature (for lack of a better description) pay much attention to what the driver’s doing. After a certain period without sensing a touch or a hold on the steering wheel, these systems will flash lights or sound alarms in order to grab the driver’s attention. However, a minimal amount of response sends those safety nannies packing.

Cadillac’s Super Cruise is relatively unique in that a FOVIO driver monitoring system sourced from Seeing Machines monitors the driver’s eyes, keeping track on the level of attention they’re paying to the road ahead.

With ZF’s system, the cameras map the interior of the car and each of its occupants, painting a 3-D picture of the cabin. The interior observation system (IOS) judges not just the driver’s eyes, but their posture, too, determining whether they’re able to retake the wheel and respond to an oncoming danger in a certain amount of time. Other occupants also fall under the system’s gaze. This could prove useful when it comes time to deploy — or not deploy, based on posture — the vehicle’s airbags or seatbelt pretensioners.

A child left accidentally in a parked vehicle would be picked up by the IOS’s camera, with the car taking steps to alert the parents, the authorities, or just lower the windows. Safety doesn’t end after the car’s been placed in park and the engine shut off.

It’s generally agreed that no vehicle with a certain level of self-driving capability can truly be deemed “safe” without a camera trained on the driver. With nearly all automakers chasing greater levels of autonomous control, systems like this will be in high demand. ZF’s setup isn’t available yet, however. The supplier hopes to have it ready for production by late 2021.

[Source: Wards Auto] [Image: Tesla]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • TMA1 TMA1 on Oct 23, 2018

    I'm sure this will be mandatory in all vehicles in a few years. Just like backup cameras and the upcoming autonomous braking mandate.

  • TimK TimK on Oct 23, 2018

    And an insurance company would never use these data to deny claims or assign fault, would it?

    • Cognoscenti Cognoscenti on Oct 24, 2018

      "And an insurance company would never use these data to deny claims or assign fault, would it?" Classic! =:)

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