It will be years before fully autonomous cars go mainstream. In the meanwhile, automakers are working on ways to make vehicles smart enough to tell if their human driver is actually paying attention.
Car manufacturers such as Toyota, General Motors, and Volkswagen are testing systems that would be able to tell whether a driver is too tired or distracted to be trusted behind the wheel, The Wall Street Journal reports. The first of these systems could launch as early as next year.
Technology from Delphi Automotive that uses cameras and software to track drivers’ gaze and head movement will be available in two vehicles for sale next year, the Journal reports. The system alerts the driver with a noise and seatbelt vibration if it detects that he or she has shifted their gaze from the road for too long or if their eyelids seem droopy.
Another firm called Eyeris is testing similar technology with automakers, per the Journal.
The technologies could help address the growing problem of distracted driving. In 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in car crashes involving distracted drivers, according to Distraction.gov. A 2015 survey from Eerie Insurance found that a third of drivers admit to texting while driving.
Tech companies and car manufacturers have already taken steps to prevent drivers from reaching for their phones while steering. Systems like Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto allow drivers to essentially run their phone’s software on their car’s infotainment system, making it easier to control music and take phone calls while keeping both eyes on the road.