Volvo will introduce in-car cameras and sensors to monitor drivers for signs of intoxication and distraction. If necessary, the technology will allow the car "to intervene if a clearly intoxicated or distracted driver does not respond to warning signals and is risking an accident involving serious injury or death," the company said.
The car could respond by limiting speed or slowing down and parking the car in a secure spot. Volvo hopes to begin installing this technology by the early 2020s. The announcement, made this week, is part of the company’s efforts to increase the safety of its vehicles. Earlier this month, the automaker announced it would limit speeds on all its cars after 2020 to 112 miles per hour.
The company’s new policies are part of its Vision 2020 goal, which strives to eliminate fatalities or serious injuries while driving a Volvo vehicle by 2020. Other companies employ in-car camera technology. Cadillac uses infrared cameras that face the driver to power its advanced driver assist system, Super Cruise. The camera monitors the driver’s eye movements, enabling a “hands-free” driving experience. If the driver is distracted, Super Cruise emits a series of audible and vibrating alerts to remind the driver to keep their eyes on the road.
Some expressed concern that the technology could be used to surveil drivers. Volvo, however, assured consumers that the cameras only collect data to make cars safer and only data required for the systems. The cameras will not record video and no data will be collected without the driver’s consent.
"When it comes to safety, our aim is to avoid accidents altogether rather than limit the impact when an accident is imminent and unavoidable," Henrik Green, Volvo Cars' senior vice president, research and development, said in a statement Wednesday. "In this case, cameras will monitor for behavior that may lead to serious injury or death."
The system will check for potentially threatening conduct from drivers, such as lack of steering input for prolonged periods or having their eyes closed or off the road for extended periods. The technology will also allow the car to check for unreasonably slow reaction times and dangerous weaving across lanes. The in-car cameras will monitor eye movements to measure driver distraction or intoxication.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 30 people in the US die each day as a result of drunk driving accidents. There were 10,874 deaths in the US from drunk driving crashes in 2017.
"There are many accidents that occur as a result of intoxicated drivers," Trent Victor, professor of Driver Behavior at Volvo Cars, said. "Some people still believe that they can drive after having had a drink, and that this will not affect their capabilities. We want to ensure that people are not put in danger as a result of intoxication."