Facilitating Improved Vehicle Safety with Interior Sensing/Monitoring Solutions

Automotive safety solutions have historically focused on external information and automated action to reduce the likelihood of vehicular accidents. Now, the concept is being extended from the vehicle’s exterior to encompass the vehicle’s interior, using active sensors to give embedded driver/occupant safety monitoring systems accurate and semantically-rich insights into the state of the vehicle interior.

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Market Overview

  • In-cabin perception and safety solutions are echoing trends that have already played out in external Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) sensing and applications. Just as camera sensors have been leveraged to detect hazardous situations outside of the vehicle and intervene on the driver’s behalf, camera sensors are increasingly being used to identify hazardous situations within the vehicle, intervening on the driver’s behalf to further the impact that active safety technologies have played in making mobility safer.
  • Driver Monitoring Systems (DMS) are expanding to more general Occupant Monitoring Systems (OMS), delivering on the core set of driver-focused fatigue and distraction detection applications, with the addition of other occupant monitoring applications.
  • The market for DMS is heavily overcrowded, with numerous startups having entered the market in the past 10 years, targeting fulfillment of a common set of automotive applications, and with highly similar capabilities in terms of value-added feature innovation and abilities to deliver safety use cases on very modest hardware.
  • ABI Research expects the market to consolidate significantly in the coming years. In many cases, the market exit will take place through acquisitions, particularly by Tier One suppliers looking to integrate DMS as part of their broader portfolio of infotainment safety applications.
  • By 2030, ABI Research forecasts 71 million DMS/OMS shipments worldwide, with the head unit integration point accounting for over a third of all shipments.
  • Regionally, Western Europe is currently the biggest recipient of DMS/OMS (US$490 million in 2023), spurred by vehicle safety regulations, followed by North America (US$90 million). But by 2030, the Asia-Pacific region will generate the most revenue (US$1.3 billion), followed by North America (US$752 million) and Western Europe (US$574 million).
  • ABI Research also expects 6.5 million in-cabin radar sensor shipments with 60 Gigahertz (GHz) support, which is a key technology that enables use cases that require permeability through the material of the driver and front passenger’s seats.

The need to rapidly deploy a new safety technology, not only in new platforms, but also in existing platforms, is growing interest in rearview mirror-integrated device form factors that concentrate the required sensing, processing, and Infrared (IR) illumination into a form factor that can be readily integrated, which also enjoys a good vantage point over both the driver and the other passengers. – James Hodgson, Research Director at ABI Research


Key Decision Items

Identify the Novel Use Cases for Driver and Occupant Monitoring Solutions

The automotive industry has and continues to bring to market a variety of driver and passenger monitoring applications. These solutions are primarily being used for vehicle safety; however, some vendors are offering value-added applications as well.

For driver-focused safety applications, some of the main use cases are fatigue detection, gaze detection, manual distraction (e.g., holding a phone), cognitive distraction, seatbelt compliance, and airbag optimization.

Regarding whole-cabin safety applications, some of the driver-focused safety use cases equally apply, notably seatbelt compliance and airbag compliance. But whole-cabin safety applications also extend to child presence detection. This use case means the vehicle can detect when a child has been left in a car or gained access to the car and is now at risk of injury from overheating. From there, the vehicle owner can be alerted via mobile device, while activating/adjusting the in-car heating or cooling to prevent hyperthermia.

Finally, driver-focused value-add applications are also being brought to market to provide an improved overall driving experience. This results in use cases such as biometrics/identification, emotional state determination, lip reading (improves in-car voice assistants), and video conferencing.

What’s Driving Growth for In-Vehicle Monitoring Technologies?

ABI Research traces the growing demand for in-vehicle monitoring solutions back to four main factors: regulation and safety agencies, semi-autonomous driving, context-away infotainment, and cost savings. These growth drivers are described in more detail below.

Regulation and Safety Agencies: Consumers typically expect their vehicles to be as safe as the state-of-the-art technology will allow, with little to no appetite to pay extra for better safety outcomes. Moreover, safety agencies, such as the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the European Commission (EC), introduce regulations that potentially require driver and occupant monitoring solutions in vehicles. Lawmakers also have a role to play, with the Hot Cars Act (H.R.3164) stipulating that automakers must implement a solution that alerts the driver about a child left behind in a vehicle.

Semi-Autonomous Driving: Beyond active safety, DMS has an important role to play in higher levels of automation, particularly in semi-autonomous applications. The safety case for any semi-autonomous application depends on both the human driver and autonomous application, each fulfilling their role. Therefore, it will be essential to leverage camera-based DMS to ensure that the driver’s attention is directed toward the road situation, that they have their hands on the steering wheel, or that they are in a position to rapidly assume manual control in hands-free contexts.

Context-Aware Infotainment: While safety use cases captured in safety regulation (or quasi regulation) will play the central role in driving DMS adoption, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are striving to avoid commoditization and leverage the enabling technologies to deliver differentiated infotainment/digital cockpit experiences. This, in turn, will shape the optimal configuration of camera resolution, Field of View (FOV), location, etc.

Cost Savings: For many years, car manufacturers have relied on legacy sensors, steering patterns, braking behavior, and pressure pads located in the seats to facilitate vehicle safety features. These components incur Bill of Materials (BOM), weight, and harness complexity costs that could be avoided through a combination of a single camera and radar sensor in the cabin.

The Role of 60 GHz Radar In Vehicle Safety

With most of the applications for 60 GHz tied to the rear of the cabin, the market potential for 60 GHz radar will be tied heavily to the adoption of OMS or whole-cabin monitoring solutions. However, it is key to recognize that there will not be a one-to-one relationship between the adoption of OMS and the adoption of 60 GHz radar. A robust Child Detection Presence (CPD) solution will need to account for occlusions like blankets and also cover the rear passenger footwells. However, not all OEMs are committed to such a level of robust perception, with a combination of a high-vantage point camera and conventional pressure/weight sensors considered sufficient to capture most of the hazardous situations that could occur.

How Compute Is Being Managed for In-Vehicle Safety Applications

While the need for rapid integration has driven the adoption of standalone systems with dedicated processors, the next generation of DMS/OMS is expected to take better advantage of existing compute resources to cut costs, with the two best candidates being the digital cockpit domain controller and the ADAS domain controller. Overall, the market is trending toward integration into the digital cockpit domain controller, but this is not a universal trend, with many DMS vendors navigating a more general trend of mixed criticality compute consolidation.

In order for digital cockpit compute to deliver safety-critical applications, it will require the adoption of safety mechanisms that are not featured in the legacy infotainment systems. This ensures non-interference between non-safety critical and safety-critical functions, and that the resources required to fulfill safety goals will always be available to the DMS/OMS. In this regard, digital cockpit DMS solutions are set to benefit from a larger, existing industry trend that will see broader adoption of mixed-criticality compute architectures in the automotive industry.

Key Market Players to Watch

Dig Deeper for the Full Picture

ABI Research’s new report, In-Cabin Sensing Technologies and Applications, provides a full-fledged overview of the in-vehicle driver/occupant monitoring market. The report dives into numerous trends, technological developments (radar, integration, computing, etc.), available solutions, case studies, and shipment/revenue forecasts for these systems. Download the report here.

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This report is part of ABI Research’s Smart Mobility & Automotive Research Service, which provides extensive coverage examining ADAS, active safety, autonomous driving, connected infotainment, and consumer telematics solutions.