A decade ago, you'd assume that the idiot on the highway in front of you weaving back and forth across the yellow lines was drunk. Today, there's a pretty good chance that they're just trying to navigate some particularly complicated emoji. GM wants to stop the madness, and it's betting on eye-tracking to do so.
In an effort to curb driver distraction, GM has announced that it will install half a million eye-tracking devices in cars over the next few years. It'll be the first major automaker to do so, and according to a report by The Financial Times (paywall), it's buying the technology from an Australian company called Seeing Machines.
Seeing Machines makes a couple of different tracking devices; some of them are aimed at monitoring exhaustion in long-haul truckers, others can detect distraction in users in situations that range from flight simulators to actual pilot cockpits. It seems like GM will be utilizing the company's Fovio model, since it's listed as a partner on the device's website, though it's possible that some other device is being developed for GM.
Fovio looks a bit like a small Kinect and can be mounted or embedded within the dashboard. It's able to not only track things like your eye movement and how much you're blinking, but also where your head is in relation to the rest of the car. According to FT, Seeing Machines is also working on adding biometric tracking data like your BAC and heart rate—which is specific enough to raise issues of data privacy, even this early in the game.
From GM's perspective, though, it's all in service of being able to know when you need a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder to watch the road. And if the technology catches on, it could be a major step towards eradicating texting-and-driving—surely one of the dumbest, most preventable reasons for accidents. [FT]