Driver monitoring has become a critical focus of automotive safety systems as distracted driving remains the primary cause of car accidents. Israel-based Cipia develops driver-monitoring systems enabled by computer vision AI. The company has gained a presence in China, poised to scale up in the US and Europe.
Cipia, formerly Eyesight Technologies, concentrated on using computer vision algorithms to build touch-free interfaces for consumer electronics. The company shifted its business focus in January 2019 to automotive in-cabin sensing.
According to Tal Krzypow, Cipia's vice president for product and strategy, in 2017, the European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP) released a roadmap for new vehicle technologies it expects to see in the coming years, including driver distraction and drowsiness monitoring.
Krzypow said a global automotive OEM asked Cipia if it has any solution for in-cabin sensing, prompting the company to ultimately pivot and enter the car industry. Cipia's technology was chosen for 40 vehicle models from eight OEMs based in China, the US and Europe. In addition, the European Union has mandated all new cars registered in the EU to install a distraction and drowsiness monitoring system from July 2026 onward.
Agnostic system that requires lean hardware
Cipia's driver monitoring system gathers images through infrared cameras to ensure the technology works under all lighting conditions. According to Krzypow, when the driver starts looking away from the road and does not focus on the driving, the distraction indicator will light up. The system can also detect whether the driver fastens the seatbelt or holds a phone.
Krzypow said two layers of AI algorithms support the technology. The first layer detects faces and tracks head poses to analyze how much the driver's eyes are open, the gaze direction and other information the video frames provide.
The second layer of algorithms translates the facial cues into the driver's physiological state, he said. For example, the algorithms will translate a series of blinks into a certain level of drowsiness. A series of gaze patterns will be rendered as a certain level of distraction.
Cipia's driver monitoring system also enhances fleet management solutions offered by telematics service providers. Krzypow said the company's device used in this application beeps and alerts a fleet driver to focus on the road. The fleet manager can understand the status of a driver, whether there are many distractions on a specific route or if drivers tend to fall asleep in a particular shift.
Cipia works with a Taiwan-based electronics OEM, which helps the company design and manufacture the device for fleet management, Krzypow said. The solution can be found in Russia, Australia and the US.
The vice president also said Cipia is developing an occupancy monitoring system that will be launched in 2024. The system will detect the entire cabin to check which seats are taken, if children are present and more, he added.
As driver monitoring technology becomes a mandate, companies are accelerating the development of their solutions. Krzypow said Cipia differentiates itself from the pack with its lean hardware requirements and flexibility.
He explained that Cipia's system can operate with less processing power and uses a single-megapixel camera, whereas its leading competitors prefer a two-megapixel camera.
Cipia's solution is also hardware-agnostic. Krzypow said the system enables the highest level of flexibility to work with as many suppliers in the market as possible and will not be limited to certain OEMs or tier-1s.
Saw China's potential early on
China's car market has drawn the world's attention as EVs and smart cars are developed rapidly locally. Cipia entered the Chinese market before the country rose to be an automotive giant. It signed its first contract for a driver monitoring system with a China-based manufacturer before shifting its focus in 2019.
"We were very happy that we identified this potential early on and established our presence there. Today we work with five Chinese OEMs, but there are many more we are able to expand," Krzypow said.
Cipia has also launched its solution in the US and European markets, where it hopes to scale up soon, according to Krzypow. The transformation the car industry is experiencing will likely help the company.
Krzypow said more OEMs have become interested in working directly with software companies. Compared with traditional carmakers, those manufacturing EVs are more comfortable with integrating technologies themselves than with tier-1 suppliers because they are coming with the mindset of software-defined vehicles.
Tal Krzypow is Cipia's vice president for product and strategy. Credit: Cipia