Driver monitoring systems are one of the most essential features of any new car. Driver assistance features using automation are heavily monitored by the systems. Therefore, they’re critical to the safety of the driver and passengers in any new vehicle. What are the best driver monitoring systems (DMS) on the market? Here are the best options available, according to Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports says you need driver monitoring systems
What is a driver monitoring system? Driver monitoring systems do exactly what the title claims. It’s a safety system that monitors the driver of the vehicle. More specifically, these systems are put into place to ensure a driver is paying attention to the road while using driver assistance functions. Some driver assistance functions, like self-driving, cruise control, or lane-keeping assist, need supervision at all times. Without driver supervision, the vehicle is in danger of crashing.
A human needs to be aware whether it is due to a malfunction with the automatic steering, accelerating, or otherwise. Automation is still not foolproof, and without human interaction, it could end badly. That’s why driver monitoring systems are vital to your safety. Consumer Reports even rewards reviewed vehicles an extra two points toward their overall score if a diver monitoring system is available.
Systems that need improvement
BMW Traffic Jam Assist
BMW’s Traffic Jam Assist is their driver assistance system with some monitoring features. Moreover, it activates a camera that is only available at speeds under 40 mph. While driving more quickly, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist can turn on with the camera covered or toggled off in a system menu.
According to Consumer Reports, a BMW spokesperson claimed the system is purposely designed this way. The reason is that hands-free driving is unavailable at speeds above 40 mph. While safety seems to be at the forefront of that decision, most hands-free driving happens at high speeds on the highway with no other cars around. It seems counterproductive to only allow drivers to use these functions at a certain speed. A better solution would be a proper DMS.
Subaru DriverFocus and EyeSight
CR tested Subaru’s DriverFocus cameras on a Subaru Outback along with an EyeSight active driver assistance feature. This system detects whether or not a driver is distracted in some situations. However, owners can turn it off in a menu and not use it. That means the driver assistance features are available for use without a DMS. Consequently, the Subaru spokesperson CR spoke with claimed the company has not ruled out requiring the camera to use adaptive cruise control in the future.
Tesla Autopilot is one of the most popular versions of automation in vehicles globally. Does it require a driver monitoring system to use? CR found that drivers could use Autopilot while the cabin camera is fully covered. The point of the system is to detect if the driver’s eyes move off the road. Additionally, it shortened how long the driver could keep their hands off the wheel. CR said as long as the driver’s hand is on the wheel, the Tesla Model Y and S do nothing about their eyes going away from the road. A proper driver monitoring system should alert the driver to look ahead.
The best driver monitoring systems available
Ford uses a driver assistance system called BlueCruise on some of its vehicles. One vehicle is the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT, which the model CR tested. Firstly, the system will not operate when the camera is covered. In addition, it warned the driver with audio and visual alerts if they closed their eyes or looked away from the road for about 5 seconds or more. Without a response, the driver then received a “jolt” from the monitoring system. This “jolt” is an automatic slight press of the brakes to make the driver aware. Eventually, if the person operating the vehicle ignores the road, BlueCruise will slowly make the vehicle come to a stop. Lastly, BlueCruise ensures the driver’s hands are on the wheel in “complex” driving situations.
GM Super Cruise
Finally, GM’s Super Cruise driver assistance system is always paired with driver monitoring. CR tested the systems on a Chevy Bolt EUV, Cadillac CT6, and a Cadillac Escalade. Each model delivered warnings, audible and otherwise, to capture driver attention. Just as the Ford offering did, Super Cruise will eventually slow the vehicle to a stop without a driver’s response. Lastly, the system will not operate if the camera is covered. This is everything a driver monitoring system needs to ensure safety during automation.
Do you need a good driver monitoring system?
There are two requirements for needing a sound driver monitoring system. Firstly, does your vehicle have driver assistance features that accelerate, steer, or drive for you? Secondly, do you use those features? If you answered yes to both questions, you’d need a vehicle with a good driver monitoring system. According to Consumer Reports, the best ones available are Ford’s BlueCruise and GM’s Super Cruise. Both allow for automation while monitoring the driver to ensure safety.