Driver Monitoring Systems: Key Takeaways and Further Developments

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4Q 2020 | IN-5962

While the Euro NCAP’s 2025 Roadmap calls for DMS installations starting this year, OEMs may be looking at aftermarket options, anticipating the move from installing DMSs as part of the infotainment system to integrating them into ADAS ECUs.

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Industry Overview


The Driver Monitoring System (DMS) has become a priority zero feature for passenger vehicles since the launch of the Euro NCAP's 2025 Roadmap, which proposes the use of DMSs for primary protection from 2020, and the publication of the European Commission Legislation 2018/0145 that makes use of the technology mandatory from 2022. The DMS vendor landscape is currently composed of several small to medium-sized players and startups providing algorithms that range from drowsiness and fatigue monitoring on the low end and cognitive load monitoring on the high end, which require different System on Chip (SoC) power requirements. Most offerings available in the market consist of DMS algorithms running on dedicated SoCs. Nevertheless, an increasing number of vendors have integrated Occupant Monitoring Systems (OMSs) in the same SoC due to the algorithms' similarity, as the Euro NCAP will also reward Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) that offer child presence detection as a standard feature from 2022.

DMS: Infotainment or ADAS Functionality?


Although integrating DMSs and OMSs generates efficiencies, they are still part of a standalone offer that is not aligned with the Engine Control Unit (ECU) consolidation trend in new vehicles. As a result, OEMs are starting developments to integrate these systems into cockpit domain controllers or Advanced Driver-Assistance System (ADAS) ECUs. The integration into the cockpit or in-vehicle infotainment has been the preferred route because the cockpit is already designed to display information and typically has extra room for additional applications. As a consequence, the integration is cheaper and faster. It also allows companies to merge DMSs and OMSs with infotainment features to provide comfortable and convenient cabin features via facial or gesture recognition, such as the infotainment system's operation via gesture or automatic preset preferences. Not many vehicles have an ADAS ECU today, as advanced ADAS functionalities are only required in cars with at least Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 2 autonomy.

The DMS implementation in the cockpit, however, seems to be only a short- to mid-term strategy. Many OEMs plan to move driver monitoring to the ADAS ECU in the next 5 to 7 years when more vehicles are equipped with it, allowing DMSs to benefit from sensor fusion and higher performance processing. Nevertheless, OMS functionalities that would remain in the cockpit as a seatbelt alert, for instance, are already infotainment functions, and provide more significant benefits for convenience than for safety.

Does an Aftermarket Opportunity Exist?


DMS adoption will continue to grow, despite lower new vehicle sales because of legal requirements in different world regions, such as Europe and China. Nevertheless, COVID-19 has affected the automotive industry considerably, and while programs that were already in development have not been affected, OEMs' roadmap activities that were in the plan to start within the next few years have been postponed indefinitely. Combining this with supply shortages and difficulty in completing homologation testing and certification could be important barriers for OEMs to comply with the regulation on time.

Despite the European Association of Automobile Manufacturers (ACEA) asking NCAP for a 2-year delay to introduce 2022 protocols, the NCAP has, so far, not agreed to a time adjustment. Therefore, DMS providers that primarily focused on OEM-embedded solutions are anticipating a possible aftermarket opportunity where standalone DMSs would be retrofit into new vehicles at the dealership. As a DMS is mainly an information system that does not require access to actuators, such as brakes, a retrofit DMS can be a feasible solution, especially for mass-market OEMs.



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