You Need Driver Monitoring Systems for Your Safety, According to Consumer Reports

Have you heard about all the new cars with driver monitoring systems? It’s quickly become one of the most popular safety features in the automotive industry. Like other driver assistance systems, they’re put in place to help the driver keep themselves and passengers safe. Consumer Reports says car owners should always have driver monitoring systems to keep them safer.

What is a driver monitoring system?

2022 Kia Forte GT, driver monitoring systems are important for your safety, according to Consumer Reports.
The 2022 Kia Forte GT’s front interior | Kia

Driver assistance features perform tasks like adjusting the car’s speed, keeping between the lines, or taking over in autopilot. For each one of these features, human supervision is required. According to Consumer Reports, research suggests that drivers are less likely to pay attention when using automation of any kind. Consequently, if a driver assistance system malfunctions or steers the car in the wrong direction, it leads to many more crashes.

For that reason, CR rewards vehicles it reviews that pair automation with a driver monitoring system. These systems use cameras and computers to monitor the driver’s attentiveness, especially with automated features like steering, braking, and accelerating. Some of these are trendy features you’ve heard of, like adaptive cruise control and lane centering. Along with AAA, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, CR says driver monitoring makes automation safer.

Why do you need a driver monitoring system?

Ford's BlueCruise, one of the best driver monitoring systems available, according to Consumer Reports.
F 150 equipped with BlueCruise hands-free driving | Ford Motor Company

According to Consumer Reports, about half of all new models can automatically steer, brake, and accelerate. Charles Green, a former team member behind GM’s driver monitoring system, compared it to stocking store shelves vs. managing the store.

“You can have some kid who stacks the shelves for you, but it’s your responsibility to make sure the cans get to the shelves in the right place.”

If the automated features didn’t require a human, there wouldn’t be a driver’s seat in the vehicle. Unfortunately, this is something people aren’t used to quite yet. Since automated driving, steering, and more have become more prevalent in recent years, people are too trusting. They’re either driving the car or paying no attention.

CR says that despite the risky business automation causes, very few automakers have added driver monitoring systems to their vehicles. Brands like BMW, Ford, GM, Tesla, and Subaru have already made the feature available in many models. Each one claims its system detects when a driver isn’t paying close enough attention. Moreover, CR conducted tests and determined not all of them “do enough to encourage safe driving.” The only two systems the publication trusted enough to earn additional review points were Ford’s BlueCruise and GM’s Super Cruise.

Consumer Reports says every DMS should have these features, or they aren’t safe enough

Alerts the driver can’t ignore: The primary function of a driver monitoring system is to alert the driver to pay attention while vehicle automation is active. However, some vehicles’ systems don’t do enough to force the driver into attentiveness. Consequently, the alerts need to be, for lack of a better word, annoying enough that the driver literally cannot ignore them.

One hand on the wheel shouldn’t qualify as attention: With many vehicles, one hand on the steering wheel proves the driver is paying attention. However, this is dangerous for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s effortless for someone to rest a hand on the wheel while using their phone with the other hand. More importantly, it doesn’t track whether or not the driver is looking at the road ahead. We’d argue it’s more important to be looking at the road than holding the steering wheel. It’s pretty easy to grab the steering wheel if needed quickly, but if you’re not looking at the road, it’ll already be too late. CR suggests infrared cameras that can track head or eye movements.

Private data is necessary: According to Consumer Reports, driver monitoring should limit data collection to the most minimal information to ensure drivers are looking at the road. In addition, there should be no video recording and no images or information leaving the car. It needs to be a completely private system, or most people won’t use it.

You need driver monitoring systems for your safety

RELATED: Driver-Assistance Name Game: What Automakers Call Their ADAS Features

In conclusion, most new vehicles now have a suite of driver assistance features. Among many of them are automated driving features of some kind. Whether steering, lane-keeping, accelerating, or otherwise, it can be dangerous without human supervision. Automation makes humans too comfortable, and they stop monitoring the system. That’s why a driver monitoring system is so important. A full-fledged system that forces a driver to watch the road ahead can save lives. Along with Consumer Reports, we recommend always having a high-level driver monitoring system with any automation.

RELATED: Tesla Safety Report for 2021 Q1: How Safe Is Autopilot?