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Will in-car cameras reduce privacy or save lives?

Privacy advocates are raising concerns about Volvo’s interior cameras, but the car-maker that stakes its reputation on safety places a higher value of curbing crash-related injury and fatalities.  

The Swedish multinational automobile manufacturing company recently announced that models rolling out as early as 2020 will be equipped with in-vehicle cameras that monitor the driver’s behavior. Things such as eye movement, distracted driving, drowsiness, intoxication, and texting while driving will be sharply observed.

Drivers who are behaving in an unsafe manner can expect a warning from the vehicle’s safety system. Failure to focus on the road or come to attention could result in the Volvo slowing down or even coming to a complete stop. The concept behind this next generation fail-safe system is to lower the number of avoidable collisions that occur each year.

Are privacy concerns warranted?

While the announcement about driver monitoring may raise a few eyebrows, Volvo will not be the first to implement technology in this fashion. Cadillac already utilizes infrared cameras for its Super Cruise system that allows for hands-free driving. The luxury CT6 sedan tracks hand movements and assumes control if you take yours off the wheel or your attention strays. The Cadillac also uses a similar warning system to return driver attention to the road.

But one item few car owners are unaware of is that driver data is already being collected. Driving systems that mesh your habits to improved fuel efficiency and others are sometimes recorded in a vehicle’s computer. But to speak to the fear that so-called “Big Brother” is watching, nothing could be further from the truth. These systems are self-contained in a large piece of machinery that drivers own. They are not transmitted or culled for other uses. In fact, Volvo’s driver safety system doesn’t even record your behavior.

Weighing the value of in-car cameras

In order to come to terms with the newish idea of in-car cameras, it’s important to consider the inherent driver problems everyday Americans face. According to the CDC, upwards of 29 people lose their lives daily in alcohol-related crashes. In 2016, more than 10,000 people died, and that equals one death every 50 minutes.

Despite stringent DUI and DWI laws and tougher enforcement, more than 1,200 children needlessly die annually in alcohol-related wrecks. These statistics don’t even include collisions caused by other forms of careless driver behavior. The problem is far too real to ignore, and Volvo has taken a long overdue step towards saving lives.

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