Safety and Driver Attention

2 minute read

I’m sure if you follow the self driving car space, you’ve heard about the two recent deaths in the news. The woman hit by the Uber in self driving mode and the man who drove into a guardrail in a Tesla on Autopilot. Like many other deaths caused by inattentive drivers, we believe both those deaths would have been prevented had the driver of the car been paying attention.

openpilot user getting a distracted alert (real user photo, not actor)

When you are behind the wheel of a car, you must always be paying attention! There is no software yet that is capable of driving better than a human. But one of the dangers as the software gets better is that this is not always apparent.

Currently, our data shows that openpilot makes multiple minor mistakes requiring correction per drive. As long as this is the case, no one will confuse the system with a superhuman driver. But as our software improves to the point that mistakes have hours between them, this might no longer be true.

We believe the solution to this is driver monitoring. GM has pioneered this with Super Cruise. And from Lex Fridman at MIT, here is an example of glance classification applied to the safety driver in the Uber crash. (looking forward to the open source release!)

Screengrab from video taken with EON Dashcam Devkit

Today, we are taking the first step toward our driver monitoring strategy. In openpilot 0.4.4, we’ve added a setting to record and upload the front camera. This setting is off by default, but if you choose to opt in, you’ll be rewarded with 0.5 extra comma points per minute, and you’ll be helping us to train our driver classification network. You’ll also be able to review the data later.

See the “Front Camera Record and Upload” option?

Remember, if you can’t see the camera, it can’t see you! When EON was designed, it was made to be flipped by switching the top and bottom piece with the supplied allen key. So flip your EON for 0.4.4, it looks better upside down anyway. If you still have a NEO, we are offering a trade-in.

How to flip an EON, in pictures

You can also watch the EON video flip tutorial by VirtuallyChris.

In all our future hardware, we plan to have a camera for monitoring the driver. And in the period where the statistics show our software is good enough to be trusted, but not yet superhuman, monitoring will be mandatory.

Flipped EON (camera in the lower left now)

Like seeing real progress made in self driving cars? Follow us on Twitter, @comma_ai