SafeWise Reviews: This product has been tested and objectively reviewed by the author.
Like many Americans, I spend a lot of time in my car. Between daily commutes, kids’ activities, general errands, and weekend adventures, my family logs roughly 550 miles in the car each week. Plus, we live in California, which means many of those miles are spent sitting in afternoon traffic, trying to fight off sleep.
So when I heard about the Vuemate Driver Fatigue System from Rear View Safety (the exclusive distributor of the Vuemate in the US), I was intrigued. The Vuemate Driver Fatigue System is a highly intelligent camera that monitors your eyes, pupils, and face while you’re driving. It sounds an alarm if your eyes close for longer than a few seconds, and alerts for general negligence with a soft ding if you take your eyes off the road for too long.
According to the AAA Foundation, about one in four drivers experience drowsiness while driving, but I’d argue it’s more than that. No matter how careful we try to be, it seems we all fight off sleep behind the wheel at some point, which is exactly why Vuemate could be a solution to a widespread safety issue.
But does it really work as well as Rear View Safety claims it does? Well, I spent a few days driving with the Vuemate Driver Fatigue System to find out for myself.
What I Liked About the Vuemate Driver Fatigue System:
- The installation is simple. The Vuemate attaches to one of three places—the top of your steering column, the bottom of the instrument panel, or the top of the dashboard. The system comes with double-sided tape that’s strong enough to hold the Vuemate in place, but doesn’t leave any sticky residue behind. You can adjust the camera’s eye to various heights by maneuvering easily adjustable screws, and to turn it on, simply plug it into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter.
- The pupil tracking is uncanny. The technology Vuemate tracks your pupils with is incredible. I assumed the unit’s alarm would beep at me every time I turned my head or glanced toward my GPS system—nope. The Driver Fatigue System flawlessly distinguished the difference between my eyes closing and checking my blind spot to change lanes. It didn’t sound an alarm every time I had to turn my head to back up or change lanes, which is an intelligent design feature.
- It works in low-light conditions. Thanks to the unit’s infrared LEDs, the Vuemate Driver Fatigue System works at night and in poor-lighting conditions. Vuemate warns the recognition rate may not work as well around sunrise and sunset or when outside light enters the lens. That being said, I never experienced the unit malfunctioning due to uneven lighting. For example, it worked perfectly while I was driving through a dark tunnel and while I was on an unlit mountain road.
- The alarms are loud enough to wake you up. If you do fall asleep while driving with the Vuemate, the alarm will jar you awake. It beeps loudly when you close your eyes, and if you don’t open your eyes after a few seconds, the beep gets longer. I feel secure knowing that if I fall asleep behind the wheel, the Vuemate will wake me up quickly. There are also volume controls to increase or decrease the strength of the alarm.
- It gives gentle negligence warnings. An alarm sounds with a pleasant ding if your eyes wander thirty to sixty degrees from the road—a simple reminder to refocus. I figured this ding would bother me every time I diverted my eyes, but it only rings after three seconds. It didn’t sound too often for me, only when I messed with my GPS controls for too long and, embarrassingly, when I stared at my phone. The ding was a good reminder for me to stop looking at my phone and pay attention to the road.
- It comes with inconspicuous lights. The unit includes three lights that activate based on your state of driving—green means the pupils are in the correct position, red means your eyes are closed or your head is turned, and blue means your eyes have strayed thirty to sixty degrees from the steering wheel. Thankfully these lights are bright enough to be noticed, but not so bright as to distract me from driving.
- The sensitivity can be adjusted. There are three sensitivity settings on the Vuemate, which can be changed by switching a button on the back of the unit. The alarm can be set to sound only if you fall asleep, or it can be set to also alert you if you divert your eyes away from the road. This feature is great, especially if you don’t want to hear those reminder dings when you aren’t looking straight ahead.
What I Didn’t Like About the Vuemate Driver Fatigue System:
- Some of the attachment positions lack full operation. The packaging recommends the best spot for the Driver Fatigue System is on the front of the steering column cover—this is true. The unit wouldn’t track my eyes properly anywhere else. Vuemate estimates a sixty-centimeter distance between the driver’s face and the unit is best, a distance that’s difficult to achieve for driver’s like myself that have long legs and need to push their seat further back.
- The power cord is clunky. My car doesn’t have a cigarette lighter in the old-school position below my steering wheel or near my radio—my lighter is in the middle-seat console. Using an electronic device with a cord that stretches from my steering wheel, across my gear shift, and into my middle seat console was awkward. Cable clips are included to attach the cord to the car interior, so at least the cord wasn’t flapping next to me as I drove. It helped immensely to lock that cord in place, but it was still bothersome to have a cord stretching along my seat and poking out of my console.
- Disconnect the power cord—or pay the price. The manufacturer cautions the power cable must be disconnected from the cigarette lighter when the engine is off or the car battery may discharge. This was a bothersome thing to remember, especially when I was in a rush. I learned the hard way that it’s not a good idea to leave it plugged in while not in use. After forgetting to unplug it one evening, I found its lights were still on the next morning and it was very hot.
- You can’t wear sunglasses. The packaging warns that the Driver Fatigue System may not work if you’re wearing sunglasses, and that’s true. But the manufacturer can’t necessarily be faulted for this, as there’s really no way for the eye-tracking technology to see past dark, tinted shades. However, this was still an unfortunate setback because that three o’clock hour when the sun is so bright that I need to wear sunglasses is also the time when I have the most difficulty staying awake.
I would love to see a battery-powered, cordless design in future models. I’d also love a unit that can work when the driver wears sunglasses. I’m hoping these features will be implemented by the time my kids start to drive because when that day comes, the Vuemate will be the ideal defense against a newly minted teenage driver—the poster child for distracted driving.
I’ll still be using the Vuemate Driver Fatigue System, but I’m not going to keep it attached to my car for regular driving. However, with holiday travels on the horizon, I’ll definitely use the Vuemate Driver Fatigue System soon. The smart pupil-tracking is a trustworthy safety feature that will bring me peace of mind during long highway drives, which is something that’s always in short supply when I’m driving with kids.