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Volvo wants to monitor distracted and drunk drivers

This week, Volvo unveiled another part of its Vision 2020 plan, the initiative to eliminate motor vehicle fatalities caused by its products by 2020. In our last blog post, we discussed the automaker’s decision to limit top speeds in its new vehicles and the company’s intention to eventually address distracted and drunk driving.

Volvo released that portion of the plan on March 20, announcing they plan to monitor driving behavior in their vehicles such as distracted or drunk driving. In-car cameras would track eye movements to determine if the driver is distracted or intoxicated. Possible actions include a driver looking away for a period or not keeping their hands on the wheel.

A Volvo representative from one of the company’s on-call assistance centers would call the driver to check in, and if they don’t respond the car will slow and potentially stop.

A possible precedent, but privacy concerns remain

Volvo would not be the first automaker to utilize in-car cameras. Cadillac uses infrared cameras that face the driver for its driver assist system Super Cruise.

That system tracks the driver’s eye movements to allow “hands-free” driving, and if their eyes wander Super Cruise uses audio and vibrating alerts to get the driver’s attention. GM said the camera isn’t recording and that it’s a video buffering feed.

Still, there is concern that privacy could diminish or be misused in the name of safety. Volvo dismissed this criticism by comparing it to the same objections raised against seatbelt laws.

“With the cameras, Volvo aims to collect data only in the ambition to make its cars safer and only the data that is required for the systems,” a spokesperson said to The Verge. “The cameras will not record video and no data will be gathered without the user’s consent. Exact technical setup is yet to be determined.”

How will the automotive market receive these changes? Will drivers who are likely to exhibit these behaviors avoid buying Volvos or will they utilize the technology to keep them accountable? Will the company face legal challenges regarding privacy? And ultimately, will this technological advancement reduce motor vehicle injuries and fatalities, as Volvo intends to do? Only time will tell.

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