Having cameras and radar systems on a vehicle exterior has become commonplace. Soon similar technology is going to become standard-fare inside the vehicle too. These visual aids are already monitoring driver attentiveness in some vehicles. Next up they will know everything–and everyone–in the cabin.
Driver Monitoring Systems (DMS) are not new. As technology has advanced with regards to advanced driver assist systems, the need to ensure drivers are still paying attention has become paramount. Many vehicles have pressure sensors in the steering wheel to detect that the driver actually has their hands on the wheel. With the advent of Level 2 hands-free systems, some vehicles are now using advanced cameras to track the driver’s attention.
So far the focus has been mostly limited to DMS, but that is about to change. As vehicles become more autonomous, technology will have to truly replace the role of the driver. One of the most important roles of the driver is knowing what is going on inside the cabin and effectively acting as captain of the ship. If there’s no driver, who plays this role? Occupant Management Systems (OMS) will.
OMS is no longer a mythical concept. European automotive safety watchdog Euro NCAP has already said it will reward brands who leverage OMS in their vehicles starting in 2022. Subsequently, members of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers, which account for nearly all U.S. light vehicle sales, voluntarily agreed to make child detection technology standard by 2025.
Several suppliers are already working on OMS options for automakers. For example, Joyson Safety Systems already has an OMS that leverages various sensors to detect occupants. The system is capable of delineating between adults, children and objects. Joyson says the solution will be able to detect if objects move or if passengers remove their seatbelt. The Joyson solution is noteworthy as the company supplies the DMS portion of General Motors’ SuperCruise system.
Other automakers, such as Tesla, are working on radar based solutions. The FCC has waived rules surrounding millimeter wave radar to allow for in-vehicle testing. Tesla’s specific use case is to detect children left in the car, but there are many uses for OMS technology.
The primary use of OMS is to enhance occupant safety, particularly when working in tandem with DMS. However, the systems will likely end up having many more functions. For example, an OMS system could detect if a ride-sharing user left a personal belonging in the vehicle, triggering a notification to the user. There’s also some comfort and convenience applications for OMS, which brands will surely leverage.