Senators Introduce SAFE Act That Could Mandate Driver-Monitoring Systems

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【Summary】The “Stay Aware For Everyone” Act will require the Department of Transportation to look into fitting every new vehicle with a driver monitoring system as a way to reduce distracted driving in the country.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Jun 08, 2021 4:00 PM PT
Senators Introduce SAFE Act That Could Mandate Driver-Monitoring Systems

Advanced driver-assist systems have been pushed into the spotlight after the most recent fatal automobile accident involving a Tesla Model S without a human driver in the driver's seat. The accident has brought up questions on how advanced driver-assist systems are regulated in the U.S. and ways to stop drivers from abusing the systems. While automakers are more than happy to portray their systems as ones that can take the driver out of the equation, fully driverless cars are still years away.

Trying To Cut Distracted Driving

After requesting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to introduce enhanced guidelines for advanced driver-assist systems, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey have introduced new legislation that aims to improve automotive safety and reduce accidents in the U.S. More specifically, the legislation looks to cut the number of accidents that occur from distracted driving.

The "Stay Aware for Everyone" (SAFE) Act of 2020 from Markey and Blumenthal will mandate that the Department of Transportation research the role of a driver monitoring system to reduce distracted driving, accidents, and driver disengagement because of advanced driver-assist features. After the findings have been delivered, the legislation would require the Transportation Secretary to introduce a rule to force automakers to fit a driver-monitoring system onto new vehicles within four years. The mandate wouldn't affect vehicles with advanced driver-assist systems, like Tesla's Autopilot and General Motors' Super Cruise, but every new vehicle on sale. After the rule goes into place, automakers would then have two model years to become compliant with the mandate.

Driver Monitoring Is Needed

Driver-monitoring systems vary in the way they monitor the driver, but the majority of automakers fit their vehicles with a camera that tracks the driver's head and eye movement. The camera is in place to make sure the driver is looking forward at the road ahead. Drivers that look away for too long get are warned to pay attention through visual and audible alerts. Some systems go above and beyond by automatically pulling the vehicle to the side of the road and alerting emergency services if the driver ignores the initial warnings.

With multiple reports indicating that consumers have started to become too reliant on driver-assist systems, mandating every new vehicle come with a driver-monitoring system is a good way to protect drivers and pedestrians. Additionally, other countries already have a similar mandate in place. Europe has put a mandate into effect that forces automakers to have a driver-monitoring system and key advanced driver-assist features on new cars by 2022.

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