Carmakers turn to tech to target distracted drivers

Published: May. 24, 2019 at 1:58 PM EDT
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Distracted driving is blamed for thousands of deaths every year. Now, several automakers are working on sophisticated technology aimed at saving lives. Here's how.

Behind the wheel of a 2019 Subaru Forester, CNET's Tim Stevens shows some of the latest distracted driving technology to hit the road, like one called "driver focus."

"The Subaru actually has cameras looking at the road ahead, but this one is focused right at me to make sure I'm paying attention," Stevens said. "So, we're in a safe environment here, we're on a closed road, I'm going to look down like I'm looking at my phone basically and as I do that, (beep! Beep!) it'll flash up a warning the basic idea is pay attention to the road, keep your eyes on the road."

New 2017 data shows more than 3,100 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver.

"They've already packed a bunch of air bags in the cars, they've made them very safe in a crash. Now, really the biggest risk is the driver," Stevens said.

Subaru isn't alone. Cadillac's "super cruise" driving system features advanced technology to make sure drivers are still paying attention, even with an autopilot system. It starts with visual and sound warnings, but will eventually bring the car to a stop if the driver doesn't respond.

Volvo is getting ready to put cameras in all of its vehicles.

But some may be leery of the technology.

"A lot of people don't like the idea of having a camera watch them while they do everything," Stevens said.

Stevens says right now, there is no evidence automakers are recording the in-car video. But he expects to see more car manufacturers develop similar technology to watch drivers, so they watch the road.