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Experts suggest driver monitoring for safer self-driving cars

Some Minnesota motorists might own a Cadillac that tracks the alertness of drivers when it is in semi-autonomous mode. Some experts say this kind of tracking software could be installed in all autonomous vehicles to make sure the backup driver is paying attention to the road, and this could prevent accidents such as the one in which a self-driving Uber hit and killed a pedestrian. The video camera in that car indicated that the driver's attention had lapsed.

In the Cadillac, a steering wheel camera tracks the movement of a person's eyes and head. An alert goes off if the car determines that the person's attention has wandered. If the alert is not successful, the car will stop, turn on hazards and call for emergency help. At higher speeds, this happens in a matter of three or four seconds while it will unfold more slowly at lower speeds.

Experts say cameras could assess factors such as eye closure, whether the eyes are on the road and even the driver's cognitive and emotional state. The automotive safety organization Euro NCAP says these types of driver monitoring systems will be important in autonomous vehicles for safety.

Human error is a major cause of car accidents. Accidents might also happen because of faulty parts, such as a steering wheel or brake system that should have been recalled, or for another reason such as a poorly marked crosswalk. Whoever is determined to be responsible in an accident may also owe compensation to the people who are injured. This may be particularly important for people who have serious injuries that will take a long time to recover from or whose injuries are permanently life-altering. An attorney may be able to assist a person in negotiations with the insurance company to ensure that the compensation is fair and in filing a lawsuit if necessary.

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