It seems that drivers with smaller eyes are unable to properly use some driver-assist features.
We now live in a world where even basic cars come with driver-monitoring systems that use a mix of sensors or cameras to monitor the driver's alertness and warn them if the system detects they're falling asleep. Known as Attention Assist in your Mercedes-Benz C-Class or Fatigue and Focus Alert in your BMW X3, many automakers now have some version of the system available regardless of what it's called. It seems that the technology has its limits, however, as some drivers with smaller eyes are being perceived by the system as sleeping behind the wheel.
The issue seems to have been brought to light by several Chinese drivers who said that their genetically smaller eyes tricked the driver-monitoring system into thinking that they were asleep or distracted behind the wheel. One Chinese blogger that goes by the name DerekTLM (pictured below) said that he experienced the problem in his Xpeng car.
The Chinese publication Shine reported that the blogger complained about the issue on the social media site Weibo. As the news outlet reports, almost 550,000 Chinese passenger cars are equipped with the technology for 2021, and the fact that it doesn't compensate for drivers with smaller eyes is an issue.
DerekLTM said the following on Weibo: "Let me repeat, my eyes are small but I'm not falling asleep at the wheel. Do we small-eyed people not deserve [to use] the Navigation Guided Pilot?" He then tagged the Xpeng CEO in his post and requested a system upgrade. The CEO responded promptly to the customer's concern but it's unclear what steps have been taken to improve the technology.
A few years ago, self-driving tech came under fire for being racist as it failed to detect dark-skinned pedestrians with the same accuracy as for lighter-skinned individuals.
Considering that these technologies could potentially save lives, it would be grossly unjust if a certain driver had access to a correctly functioning system based purely on their facial features. We'd love to see local authorities like the NHTSA and IIHS conduct more research into this facet of vehicle safety.