'Cars are getting smarter - and while many focus on seeing the road ahead, they are also set to begin analyzing drivers and passengers.
This week at CES, the international consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, a host of startup companies are showing off inward facing cameras that watch and analyze drivers, passengers and objects in cars.
Carmakers say they will boost safety - but privacy campaigners warn they could be used to make money by analyzing every movement - even being able to track a passenger's gaze to see what ads they are looking at, and monitor the emotions of people through their facial expressions.
Although the current systems don't listen in on conversation, it is feared this could also be added in future versions.
In-car sensor technology is deemed critical to the full deployment of self-driving cars, which analysts say is still likely years away in the United States.
Right now, self-driving cars are still mainly at the testing stage.
The more sophisticated in-car monitoring also could respond to concerns that technology that automates some - but not all - driving tasks could lead motorists to stop paying attention and not be ready to retake control should the situation demand it.
When self-driving cars gain broad acceptance, the monitoring cameras and the artificial-intelligence software behind them will likely be used to help create a more customized ride for the passengers.
Right now, however, such cameras are being used mainly to enhance safety, not unlike a helpful backseat driver.'
Read more: Is your car WATCHING you? Warning over 'big brother' vehicle technology that monitors the every move of drivers and passengers - and even knows every time you look at a billboard
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