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What Are Driving Monitoring Systems and How Do They Work?

Driver monitoring systems are coming out in new vehicles to help determine if you are intoxicated, tired or just distracted, which could become the next safety standard throughout all new vehicles. The tech that surrounds these systems are getting more sophisticated every day, so it is important to know what is keeping you safe. 

Driver intoxication, drowsiness, and distraction are the major factors in road accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), distracted driving causes over 1,000 injuries daily and about eight deaths per day. That explains why many transport, automotive, investigative, rating, and regulatory bodies recommend using driving monitoring systems on all new vehicles to ensure vehicle safety.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently took action to reduce the number of crashes caused by driver distraction. This happened after a grisly accident involving a driver who activated the "Autopilot" mode in a semi-autonomous vehicle.

A report published by NTSB blamed the accident on the driver for depending on the "Autopilot," thus disengaging from the driving task. The board came up with many recommendations, one of which is to use driving monitoring systems as part of motor vehicle automation. The driver monitoring system checks the driver's vigilance while on the road.

What Is a Driver Monitoring System?

Also known as driver state sensing (DSS), a driver-monitoring system (DMS) is a state-of-the-art security feature that monitors the driver's distraction or drowsiness and issues an alert or warning to the driver to get back to the driving task. The system uses a camera affixed to the dashboard to collect observable driver information, which it then analyses to determine whether the driver can continue with dynamic driving safely.

In many publications, several types of driver monitoring systems have been mentioned. One such system is the sensor-based monitoring system. However, experts have found that the camera-based non-contact system is the best. This is because the camera-based systems rely on physiological signals that the sensor-based systems cannot pick up. Besides, camera-based systems are more affordable when used in real-life scenarios.

The camera-based system can monitor the road and detect whether the driver is distracted or fully alert and engaged in dynamic driving. The system also monitors how the driver uses the infotainment system and the driving controls. In addition, it tracks facial features to detect whether the driver is alert or tired. The driver's condition is estimated from head rotation, yawning, gaze direction, blinking, and other eye statistics.


According to the motor vehicle rating and regulatory requirements, all new vehicles should have driver-monitoring systems (DMS) as a standard feature. In fact, the European Union (EU) has already ordered that all new vehicle models must have DMS from the year 2024. In addition, theEuro NCAP (the European New Car Assessment Program) already awards vehicle points toward a five-star rating for DMS inclusion.

Evolution of the Driver Monitoring System

In 2006, Toyota introduced its first DMS for the Lexus models. Later on, it found its way to Japan, where it was offered on the GS 450s. In 2008, Toyota developed further on its Toyota Crow system to monitor the driver's eyelids to determine if the driver is becoming sleepy. In 2017, the Super Cruise System by Cadillac incorporated DMS to allow hands-free driving on mapped highways.


Today, engineers have developed many built-in sensors that work alongside vehicle cameras. Additionally, they have also designed wearable sensors to help drivers perform specific tasks while driving. The advantage of these wearables is that users can control them using smartphones. With these and many other developments and research going on, driving will become safer in the future.

How does the Driver Monitoring System work?

As already mentioned, a DMS comprises a driver-facing camera affixed to the dashboard to monitor the driver's physiological features. The camera has lasers or LEDs (light-emitting diodes) that help "see" the driver's face, even in darkness. Likewise, the camera can "see" your eyes even when wearing dark glasses.

The system has software that collects data from the driver's face and then creates a database of how the driver's face looks when attentive. For example, the software can determine when the driver is smiling or blinking normally and when the blinking or smiling is more than normal. It can also detect when the driver's eyes are narrowing or fully closed and whether the head is over-tilting.


Not only that, the software will determine whether the driver is drowsy or distracted, absent-minded or non-attentive. When the system detects anything out of the ordinary, it will issue visual and audio alerts on the dashboard and vibrate the driver's seat.

Suppose the internal system indicates the driver isn't attentive, and the external sensor indicates the vehicle is about to cause an accident like in the case where the tire blows out. In that case, the system will apply the brakes automatically, based on the information from the exterior and interior sensors.

Why Should You Use a Driver Monitoring System?

Using a driver monitoring system is for your safety and the safety of the people you have in the car. Take, for example:

1. You get so exhausted in the evening after a hard day's work, and you feel sleepy, the driver monitoring software will check your eye statistics and warn you not to drive.

2. You have your family or friends in the car; suddenly, you turn your head to talk to someone at the back. The DMS will detect your head movement and alert you to concentrate on your driving.

3. According to the USA's NSC (National Security Council), drivers using mobile phones while behind the wheel cause 1.6 million accidents annually. That's why the DMS is necessary to alert you when using your cell phone while driving to ensure your safety and the other vehicle occupants' safety.

4. The DMS will alert you when you want to leave a pet or a kid in the car. According to the NSC, about 39 children aged 15 and below die of heatstroke every year when left behind in vehicles.

Driver Monitoring System and Autonomous Driving

At levels three and four of autonomous driving, you'll have to re-engage as you prepare to take control of the car at certain points along the road. This will necessitate the use of DMS. Without DMS, you may forget to start dynamic driving, which can lead to an accident. In addition, DMS will ensure you are alert when you are supposed to take charge of the vehicle.