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“In the future, it may be different for people who own their own cars, where there’s more privacy,” said Mr. Wisselmann at BMW, “and for people who use robo taxis, where there will be less.”

It’s 2025 and you’re cruising down the highway late at night. It’s been a long day and your eyelids feel heavy. All of a sudden, you hear three beeps, lights flash, your car slows down, and it pulls itself safely to the side of the road.

This scenario is closer to becoming reality than you may think, and although vehicle camra get all the headlines, most drivers will experience something like it long before they can buy a car that drives itself.

Full self-driving cars are taking longer to arrive than techno-optimists predicted a few years ago. In fact, in a financial filing Wednesday, Tesla acknowledged it may never be able to deliver a full self-driving car at all.

But with features such as automated cruise control, steering assist and automatic highway lane changing, new cars come loaded with driver-assist options. As they proliferate, the task of a human driver is beginning to shift from operating the vehicle to supervising the systems that do so.

That development carries promise and peril. Decades of research make clear that humans aren’t good at paying attention in that way. The auto industry’s answer: systems that monitor us to make sure we’re monitoring the car.

Such systems, usually relying on a driver-facing camera that car rear view monitor and head movements, already have been deployed in tens of thousands of long-haul trucks, mining trucks and heavy construction vehicles, mainly to recognize drowsiness, alcohol or drug use, and general distraction.

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