Introduced with the 2017 model, the Honda CR-V has an interesting feature related to driver attention. It could help sleepy drivers, but even more, it could help drivers who check their phones too often and make sure they are paying attention.
Known as the Driver Attention Monitor, the CR-V shows a small display with a coffee cup icon. There are four levels. If all bars are filled, you are fully attentive. The car knows when you are moving erratically in a lane, which is a sure sign of being sleepy or using a phone. If you start to drift in a lane or the car moves from side to side, the bars will lower all the way down to one bar, which means you are not paying attention enough. At this point, the CR-V shows a message that you need to pay attention and shifts the steering wheel back and forth gently.
I tested it for a week recently, and it works wonders. I noticed a few things right away. First, it doesn’t lower at all in the first 30 minutes of driving. My guess is that Honda figures these are quick trips up to the gas station and back; they don’t really count. The CR-V is a smaller SUV, but it uses lane-keeping tech like a large sedan (the feature is common on full-sized models from BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz; it’s implemented as a chime or a nudge on the steering wheel). In the CR-V, if you enable lane-keeping (or mitigation, as they say in the display), the attention features also won’t work — Honda likely figures the car will keep you centered in the lane.
I also drove in an area where lane markings were minimal and there were a lot of potholes and ruts. Honda states in the manual that the attention system won’t work then, either, likely because the steering will be erratic even if the driver is in full attention mode. And the system also won’t work when it’s windy, which it was on a couple of the days during my test.
After 30 minutes of driving, I noticed that I could sway a bit in the lane and eventually see that one or two bars would drop in the display. This is incredibly helpful, because you can leave the system up at all times. I’m strongly against any phone use in the car, and distracted driving is one of the reason why the fatality rates on U.S. roads has gone up the past two years (after a long decline). At least with the CR-V, a driver with this serious problem of glancing at a phone could notice that the CR-V is nudging you to pay attention constantly. I hope people use it.
Finally, after driving my college-age daughter around for an afternoon in a major city, and constantly swaying a little on the road, the attention monitor dropped down to one bar, chimed, and moved the steering wheel a bit. It’s the exact same nudge you get if the lane-mitigation system is enabled and you drift out of your lane. It’s enough to get your attention, but not so jarring that the feature itself could cause you to overcorrect or jolt the wheel.
I like how it mostly stays in the background. Even if you don’t have the feature up on the display, it still monitors how you drive, and it’s still effective. I’d like to see this feature in more cars — not just the one where I’ve seen it many times (the Mercedes-Benz line). And I wouldn’t mind if, like the voice that warns you when you disconnect your seat-belt in the CR-V, the car also scolded you a bit. Maybe it could say “pay attention to the road” or something similar.
It’s helpful as is, though, and makes the CR-V safer to drive.