After a fatal Tesla car crash in Texas last week, US Senators have proposed legislation on Monday that mandates all new cars in the country to integrate driver-monitoring tech. Two of the legislation’s sponsors, Richard Blumenthal (D-Mass) and Ed Markey (D-Conn), recently addressed a letter to federal regulators expressing concern.
Reports are unclear about how the 2019 Tesla Model S crashed at high speed while in Houston’s residential neighborhood. The police report has summarized that neither of the two passengers present in the car was in the driver’s seat. One of them occupied the front passenger seat while another sat in the rear.
Inclusion of driver-monitoring systems
The incident has drawn more attention to the age-old debate of integrating driver-monitoring systems in automated cars. A few of the car manufacturers are already leading the way. Cadillac’s Super Cruise model already uses a driver-facing camera which verifies if the driver has eyes on the road. While drivers can take their hands off the wheel, it activates when they are not looking at the road and issues warnings before eventually disengaging.
However, cars manufactured by Tesla have a much more basic driver engagement management system. It uses a torque sensor on the steering wheel that drivers can easily bypass by attaching a weight. Also, the sensor does not ensure that the driver has their eyes on the road.
Cars will have mandated driver monitoring by 2027
Many safety advocates argue that Advanced Driver Assistance Systems can be risky without the legislation. Over the past five years, four total deaths because of automated driving assistance.
According to the national highway traffic safety administration, there are an estimated 3000 deaths annually.
The Markey/Blumenthal bill, which is also co-sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar, would require the drafting of rules that need all vehicles to have driver monitoring systems.
If passed, every new car will have to adapt to a version with the technology over the next six years. A hearing has been scheduled for the bill by the House of Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.