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Extra credit for carmakers that put face biometrics in semi-autonomous vehicles

Extra credit for carmakers that put face biometrics in semi-autonomous vehicles

If it is true that what gets measured gets done, automakers should be preparing to put foolproof face biometrics systems in semi-autonomous vehicles.

It would not hurt to study Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act, either.

Consumer Reports editors say they are going to add and subtract points to the ranking scores of semi-automated vehicles based on how effectively systems monitor drivers and protect their biometric privacy.

The goal is to keep drivers focused on the road ahead when driving assistance is engaged. There already are numerous examples of drivers over-trusting sophisticated software and hardware that still are years away from providing truly robotic operation.

Consumer Reports is one of the oldest and most trusted publishers of product quality information in the world. Its editors have reviewed vehicles with autonomous driving features since the electronics were first installed in production models last decade.

This is the first year they review driver-monitoring features.

Two points will be added to a vehicle’s overall score if it “features a system that encourages safe driving as part of the model’s active driving assistance package,” according to Consumer Reports.

Semi-autonomous cars and trucks with face biometrics used for monitoring can issue audio alerts or even pump brakes to get a driver’s attention. If ignored, vehicles will slow to a safe stop.

Model year 2024 vehicles with driver assistance but without what editors deem adequate monitoring will lose two points overall, and four points in 2026 models.

General Motors and Ford were the only two of five automakers getting a points boost in the inaugural ranking. Not making the cut this year were semi-autonomous models from BMW (with its Traffic Jam Assist), Tesla (Autopilot) and Subaru (EyeSight and DriverFocus).

GM fitted its Super Cruise assistance package with a computer vision monitor. Ford did the same with its BlueCruise option.

The best-ranked cars did not allow drivers to block in-cabin cameras or to shut the cameras off when assistance systems are engaged.

Privacy for drivers is “non-negotiable,” according to the publisher. Three of the five automakers — GM, Ford and BMW — say they record face biometrics but do not transmit data out of the vehicle.

Tesla models can record video which the driver can elect to send directly to the carmaker. Subaru reportedly told Consumer Reports that it does not record biometric data to begin with.

All five manufacturers would do well to make sure they are complying with the landmark Biometric Information Protection Act.

A lawsuit filed this month charges that drivers for Bob’s Discount Furniture were not offered the opportunity to consent to driver monitoring systems in trucks.

Software by Netradyne Inc. was installed last year to spot drowsy and distracted drivers. The deployment, however, allegedly did not meet requirements set out by the law.

This should be an obstacle that early-adopting automakers can avoid with the élan that their autonomous vehicles reportedly handle a break-down in the lane ahead.

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