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June 15, 2019, 11:24 a.m. EDT

Auto makers want to make you a less distracted driver

Car companies roll out technology to track motorists’ gazes and attention

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By Adrienne Roberts


Getty ImagesNOAH SEELAM
Car companies, like Volvo, are installing new technology to tackle distracted driving.

Car companies are stepping up efforts to tackle the longtime problem of distracted driving by installing cameras and other monitoring technology in vehicles to detect when a driver’s attention wanders from the road.

Volvo Cars /zigman2/quotes/208069681/delayed VLVLY +0.13%  said it would start rolling out new eye-tracking devices across its lineup over the next few years, featuring cameras in cockpits to monitor motorists’ gazes. The system would send an alert or even limit a car’s speed whenever its driver’s eyes are averted for too long.

Subaru Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200526066/delayed FUJHY +2.63%  installed a driver-monitoring system on its Forester crossover last year that beeps if drivers’ eyelids droop or their focus drifts from the road for extended periods. The Japanese car company plans to add the feature on two more new models next year, the Legacy sedan and Outback sport-utility. BMW AG /zigman2/quotes/209548467/delayed DE:BMW -3.07%  also has introduced similar eye trackers in a limited number of models.

Other car makers, including Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz /zigman2/quotes/208157843/delayed DMLRY -0.23%  and Nissan Motor Co., /zigman2/quotes/207656007/delayed NSANY -0.22%  are taking a slightly different approach. Rather than inward-facing cameras, they are adding detection software that uses sensors designed to determine fatigue or inattention by monitoring a driver’s steering patterns and how frequently a car drifts out of its lane.

Auto executives say they realize trying to convince drivers to tuck away their mobile devices can often be a losing battle.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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