Eye-Tracking Technology for Cars Promises to Keep Drivers Alert

Future buyers of General Motors Co. ’s semiautonomous driving system will have to be comfortable with Big Brother sitting in the passenger seat.

The nation’s largest auto maker aims to release its Super Cruise on a Cadillac next year, and will feature eye tracking in the cabin, a first for a U.S. car maker.

GM will duel with Volvo Car Corp.’s Pilot Assist and Tesla Motors Inc. ’s Autopilot, both driver-assistance systems that can control a moving vehicle. While Tesla’s Autopilot requires periodic handling by the driver, GM’s system is expected to go a step further in monitoring the alertness of human drivers.

Super Cruise’s 2017 launch will come amid heightened scrutiny of systems that use cameras, sensors or radar to let the car do much of the driving at higher speeds. A fatal accident in May involving Tesla’s Autopilot raised questions over how well these technologies work and whether consumers understand their limitations.

GM’s Super Cruise software can detect if a driver is dozing off or not watching the road, and uses audible and visual alerts to grab the person’s attention. If the alerts don’t work, a representative with the auto maker’s OnStar information service will activate the vehicle’s intercom and communicate with the car’s operator. If the driver still doesn’t respond, the car will pull over on the side of the freeway and stop.

The Detroit car maker, which has been testing the eye-tracking feature for a couple of years, hopes to be ahead of its domestic competitors and cater to consumers who increasingly are looking for automated driving-assistance features. GM hasn’t said what the option will cost.

In a recent interview, Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president for global product development, said the current way some auto makers monitor alertness—by requiring periodic touching of the steering wheel—isn’t sufficient because “you can defeat the hands-on-the-wheel devices pretty readily.” That is why GM “will use something that’s pretty hard to get around,” he said.

Read more on this from The Wall Street Journal