Driver Monitoring System 101

Date: June 4, 2020

Author: Anchal Pandey

  1. 1. What is a Driver monitoring system?
  2. 2. How do distracted or drowsy driving occurs?
    1. 2.1 Distraction
    2. 2.2 Drowsiness
  3. 3. Why should one use a DMS?
  4. 4. Importance of DMS in Businesses
  5. 5. Privacy Issues with DMS?
  6. 6. The Future

Driver distraction is a major factor in road accidents.

According to the CDC (Centers for disease control and prevention), each day in the United States, distracted driving causes approximately 9 death cases and more than 1,000 injured cases. Many Automotive and transport regulatory, rating and investigative bodies are recommending the use of driver state monitoring for the new vehicle designs.

Recently, Euro NCAP has revealed its “In Pursuit of Vision Zero” Roadmap 2025, with a goal to reduce automotive accidents to zero.  It states that

“Euro NCAP envisages an incentive for driver monitoring systems that effectively detect impaired and drowsy driving and give an appropriate warning and take effective action”.

Road accident

Fig 1.  Car Crash

The US National Transportation Safety Board has also taken action to reduce the distraction-affected crashes. After an accident involving a semi-autonomous vehicle with activated “Autopilot” mode, NTSB published its investigation report on the incident.

They have highlighted the dependability of drivers on the automated feature and their disengagement from the dynamic driving task, which lead to that event.

They have also issued many safety recommendations in their report which includes using effective monitoring of driver, with respect to the automation of the vehicle.

That’s why to check their vigilance level, a driver monitoring system should be in place.

What is a Driver monitoring system?

A Driver monitoring system is a real-time system that collects observable information about the driver and tests their ability to perform the dynamic driving tasks in a safe manner.

In the literatures, several approaches for driving monitoring have been discussed. Among them, sensors based and non-contact based such as camera-based driving monitoring systems are the best alternatives.

However, the camera-based solution uses physiological signals which is advantageous over the sensor-based solution due to their non-contact applications. Besides they are not so expensive to use in the real-life scenario.

Therefore, the use of camera-based monitoring to assess the attentiveness seems to be a suitable method.

It can detect whether the driver is alert, monitoring the road, distracted or fully engaged in the dynamic driving tasks. Its functions may also include monitoring the use of driving controls, use of infotainment system and facial tracking to assess the gaze and drowsiness of the driver. 

Driver’s state is primarily estimated from eye statistics, blinking, gaze direction, yawning and head rotation.

How do distracted or drowsy driving occurs?

Driver monitoring systems are specifically designed to keep a check on these two states - Drowsiness and Distraction.


Many factors that might lead to driver distraction. When distracted, they lose the focus from dynamic driving tasks which leads to higher collision risks. 

Distraction can be categorized into visual, auditory and mechanical distraction.

Visual distraction is associated with looking away from the road. Gaze and eye statistics are widely used parameter to detect distracted driver due to its simplicity and effectiveness to check if the driver was looking at the road. 

Auditory distraction includes reacting to phone ring.

Mechanical distraction is related to the driver’s body posture during the dynamic driving task. Head direction is also used to determine their distraction level.

Visual Distraction causing road accident

Fig 2. A visual distraction


According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost half of the USA adult drivers admit that they have been driving while feeling drowsy. Also, more than 40% of these drivers admit that this has happened at least once in their driving careers

This data shows how common drowsy driving is.

Every day, these drivers put themselves at risk. Drowsiness can be detected in a driver when he/she has a lack of motivation to engage in dynamic driving task and instead seeks comfort in resting.

 According to National Safety Council, drowsy driving is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol. If the driver is fatigues then the chances of involving in a car crash increased by three folds.

Why should one use a DMS?

For developing an efficient driver state monitoring system, one has to analyze every aspect of a human, starting from his/her ethnicity, facial hair, glasses to many more! 

It sure is a tedious task but the outcome of this analysis provides amazing results and helps in saving lives. 

Think for example:

  • You had a tiring day at work and are a little sleepy, the driver attention monitoring system will check your eye statistics and will warn you to take a break and have a cup of coffee!
  • You are going out with your family blasting music from the speakers and having fun. All of a sudden you turn back to talk to your kid, the DMS detects your head movement and body patterns and thus signals you to focus on your driving. Its hand on wheel feature makes sure that you are actively controlling the drive. Better safe than sorry right?
  • According to the National Safety Council of USA, using cell phones while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. This is when you realize how important driver state monitoring is!
  • NSC has reported that on an average 39 children under the age of 15 die each year from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle. A driver state monitoring system can warn if the driver is leaving behind a child or a pet and thus save a life.
Vehicular Heatstroke to child

Fig 3. Child left in hot car

Keeping these points in mind, we have been working on our driver monitoring system which can provide reliable detection of drowsiness and inattention, by only using a single low-power camera inside the vehicle!

PathPartner DMS

Our DMS uses a hybrid combination of advanced facial analysis algorithms and deep learning models to assess driver’s alertness and focus under challenging environmental conditions.

We use a machine learning model for face detection & land-mark regression and shallow & Deep CNN model for estimations and classifications.

Our Deployable products are available on Quectel 600, i.MX 8X  and QCS605 based hardware.  We have recently showcased our Driver attention monitoring system at CES 2020 and TU-Automotive Europe 2019.

Importance of DMS in Businesses

Driver monitoring system is productive for every nature of business. For example, if you are;

  1. A taxi aggregator where both driver and passengers are using your service. The overworked driver may decide to drive in risky conditions and might result in accidents.
  2. A fleet management organisation where a driver attention monitoring system can monitor the effectiveness and safety of cabin crew during the entire journey. Usually, the drivers are working long hours, most of the times more than what is recommended. In such scenarios, distraction and drowsiness are the primary cause of accidents. Although there are rules to monitor the working hours but they are not the exact solution to control distraction & drowsiness related accidents. Drivers are also known to not willingly comply with the strict guidelines to meet deadlines and be competitive. Therefore, DMS can help in reducing such incidents and lower the fleet costs. It can help in saving insurance premiums too! DMS also gives you data that you can use to appreciate good drivers and thus boost their morale.
  3. An original equipment manufacturer where it can act as a critical safety element in improving driver safety, and thereby curbing accidents and fatalities while complying with Euro NCAP 2025 RoadMap and NTSB.
  4. An Automotive Vendor where it provides a quick time-to-market solutions which can work stand-alone without any interaction with the existing systems.
Future of Driver attention monitor

Fig. 4 Future of Driver Monitoring System

Privacy Issues with DMS?

Previous attempts at monitoring driving activity have raised concerns over privacy among consumers. However, solution such as PathPartner’s do not collect driver monitoring information from the camera and sensors installed in the vehicles. 

They do not film the driver in traditional sense. Infrared lights track eye movement and data is stored only when it tracks a drowsiness or distraction event. 

The use of such monitoring systems is completely legal and GDPR compliant.

The Future

Driver monitoring system has become an integral part of all of the vehicle designs. For the OEMs and suppliers, it is a chance to be a step forward than the rest. It can result in higher safety rating and therefore results in greater sales.

Driver Distraction and health monitoring

Fig 5. Distracted driving and Health monitoring

Moreover, with the upcoming technological advancements, the possibility of in-cabin experience for a driver by reading their emotions is not far away i.e., the car will create their emotional profile and will provide the most optimum experience. 

It will not just be limited to this. Driver state monitoring system will also check your heart rate or breathing patterns and guide you to a hospital or inform your doctor if you will be showing any symptoms of a heart attack.

In the coming days, driver monitoring systems will help in understanding human behaviour. It will help in understanding the passenger’s level of comfort and what they prefer when it comes to entertainment.  

For example, gesture recognition will let you increase the heating of the car or reduce the music you were listening to, or let you have a conversation with your voice assistant.

In a nutshell, a driver monitoring system will not only guide you home safely but also will take care of your comfort and health

Further Reading

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