The systems from BMW, Tesla and Subaru were also tested
Driver monitoring makes sure the driver is paying attention to the road when using driving assistance features
Ford’s BlueCruise and GM’s Super Cruise detected inattentive drivers and warned them early
This system is supposed to make sure drivers keep their eyes on the road when using semi-autonomous driving functions by using an infrared camera pointed at the cabin.
In tests that opposed Super Cruise from General Motors, BlueCruise from Ford, Traffic Jam Assist from BMW, EyeSight and DriverFocus from Subaru as well as Autopilot from Tesla, only the first two were deemed safe enough to earn points.
Super Cruise is a hands-off semi-autonomous driving system available in the Chevrolet Bolt EUV and some Cadillac models, which only works on highways that have already been mapped by the automaker. In testing, the system provided many warnings to inattentive drivers and slowed down the vehicle to a safe stop if it didn’t detect that the driver was back to looking at the road.
BlueCruise is very similar to Super Cruise in its operation and the system proved to be good at spotting drivers that don’t pay attention, even if they only close their eyes. The first warnings were issued about 5 seconds after the person behind the wheel stopped looking at the road and if they didn’t respond, the vehicle tried to jolt them by hitting the brakes to try and wake up someone who fell asleep. If nothing happened, the car eventually stopped.
Traffic Jam Assist is available in some high-end BMW models, such as the X7 and X5 SUVs. This system provides hands-free driving at speeds below 60 km/h and is intended to be used in traffic jams, as its name suggests. This system didn’t score points because at highway speeds, the regular, hands-on driver assistance system doesn’t use the camera to monitor driver attention.
EyeSight and DriverFocus are two systems that work together in some Subaru vehicles. The system did not earn points due to its inability to detect some scenarios where the driver wasn’t paying attention, but mostly because the camera can be entirely turned off in the settings while using the system.
Autopilot is the entry-level driver assistance system from Tesla, who also offers “Full Self-Driving”. The automaker recently added a driver monitoring system which uses a camera, but it doesn’t warn inattentive drivers as long as they hold the steering wheel, meaning that the trick used by some drivers to fool the previous versions of the system still work despite the added camera.
Out off all of these systems, only BlueCruise and Super Cruise refused to engage when the camera was completely covered.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) said it will start scoring these types of systems as part of their vehicle safety assessments, which means that vehicles with sub-optimal driver monitoring will likely not be eligible for the coveted Top Safety Pick + award in the next few years.