ABI Research of London is projecting rapid growth in driver-monitoring systems such as those offered by Aisin, Continental and Delphi. It expects more than 60 million vehicles to ship worldwide with some sort of system in 2020, up from about 2.5 million in 2013. (That includes systems that rely on the movement of the steering wheel and outward-facing cameras.)
One early adopter is Toyota Motor Corp., which first equipped cars with eye monitor technology in 2008 and now offers its "alert monitor" in the Lexus LS, GS, and GX models, the company said.
But inward-facing cameras have other uses. In the long run, if autonomous driving becomes a reality, even video conferencing could be viable.
"When you think about cameras, there's almost no limit to the number and type of use cases you could think of," said Dominique Bonte, an ABI vice president. "Cameras are going to be in cars -- there's no doubt about it."
Victor Canseco, managing director of global sales at Delphi, said the supplier's anti-distraction system can synthesize data from a handful of sources -- including cameras inside and outside the car -- to decide how much the driver can handle.
The human mind can manage only so much of a workload, Canseco said. The workload is increased by heavy traffic, bad weather or having more passengers in the car. By plugging all of those data points into a formula, Delphi thinks it can gauge a driver's capabilities and lock out some of the most mentally taxing features.
"If you're driving by yourself on a straight road then, yeah, sure -- you can do all this stuff," Canseco said. "Should you be in the middle of a snowstorm with semis all around you going 85 or 90 mph, then we can take away some of the functions from the driver so you can be safe."
The company expects the first model using its system to go on sale around 2016.