Magna’s Driver-Monitoring Rearview Mirror Ready for Action

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

With European regulators having decided that all new vehicles must have driver monitoring systems starting in 2024, the industry is gearing up to supply new products. However, consumers may not like the idea of driver-facing cameras recording their every move from inside the cabin, as there’s a strong possibility that data-obsessed automakers will utilize that information in unpalatable ways. That’s why Magna’s latest gizmo hides the camera lens behind the glass of your rear-view mirror.

Teased as a future product a couple of years ago, the camera is now ready for implementation. The unit is said to be a “fully integrated Driver Monitoring System” (DMS) that combines camera, electronics, and interior mirror technology in a package that’s said to be exceptionally easy to integrate into existing vehicles. Developed in collaboration with Seeing Machines, a technology company that specializes in AI-powered operator monitoring systems, the mirror is supposed to be pretty close to plug-and-play.

It’s effectively being marketed as a cheaper and easier solution than automakers trying to develop their own systems — and less invasive, as the camera that’s spying on you is hidden inside the rear-view mirror.

The device packages a high-resolution camera, infrared emitters, and electronic control unit into the company’s interior mirror behind the mirror glass. Magna said it’ll be available in regular manually-switched mirrors, automatically dimming mirrors, and even video display mirrors. The supplier has also said that an unnamed German automaker already has plans to debut the product in its vehicles next year.

Magna’s system sounds ideal for manufacturers hoping to install DMS hardware and software into an array of vehicles that may not have been prepared for the future technocracy.

Though it’s all being done under the auspices of enhanced safety. The system is said to monitor the driver’s head, eye, and body movements to detect signs of fatigue using an algorithmic software that estimates the operator's current state of awareness. But demonstrations have shown that the camera actually takes in the entirety of the cabin, including whatever the passengers happen to be doing.

“Distracted driving remains one of the leading causes of vehicle accidents globally and many markets are consequently making driver monitoring a standard safety technology,” explained John O’Hara, President of Magna Electronics and Magna Mechatronics, Mirrors and Lighting in a statement. “With our proven leadership and expertise in camera and mirror technology, it’s natural that we have been able to develop an innovative system solution that meets future Euro NCAP and GSR requirements, and optimizes space, styling and costs.”

“Our driver monitoring system opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to integration with other ADAS vehicle technologies and lends itself to new mobility concepts such as authentication for ride sharing.”

I suppose that’s one upside to having a high-mounted camera pointed at vehicle occupants. It’s also probably better whenever the sun is low on the horizon, as dashboard-mounted cameras can encounter glare when light comes through the rear window or is reflected back from a driver’s glasses. Motorists will also be less likely to cover the Magana unit with a piece of tape to avoid being spied on, as it would render the rear-view mirror nonfunctional.

Still, the fact remains that including such technology inside vehicles represents a grotesque violation of people’s privacy. No amount of assurance from the manufacturer will ever make me believe that the valuable data acquired by onboard cameras and microphones will be wholly protected — not that many are even bothering to do that.

If governments and the automotive industry are so preoccupied with distracted driving, they should probably focus on eliminating feature-heavy, touchscreen-based infotainment systems proven to take more of people’s attention away from the road than the comparatively basic hardware that preceded them. But we all know that they won’t because the presumption that data collection and in-car subscription services will be extremely lucrative exists.

I'm just glad that I don't live in Europe and might get to wait a few more years before I'm forced to start destroying the interior of every new vehicle I purchase.

[Images: Magna]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 30 comments
  • 285exp 285exp on May 19, 2023

    1984 was supposed to be a warning, not a how to manual.

  • RHD RHD on May 19, 2023

    Just cover the mirror with a cut-to-fit piece of black construction paper. Glue a normal mirror over the black paper. Eff 'em!

  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.
  • The Oracle These are all over the roads in droves here in WNC. Rarely see one on the side of the road, they are wildly popular, capable, and reliable. There is a market for utilitarian vehicles.