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BMW's Extended Traffic Jam Assistant System wants to stare into your eyes

The system, which debuts on 2019 X5, uses optical cameras to monitor driver attention.

BMW's Extended Traffic Jam Assistant System uses an optical camera at the top of the instrument binnacle to monitor driver attention while the system is engaged.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

In the world of advanced driver-assistance systems, only Cadillac's Super Cruise actively measures a driver's attention when it's engaged, allowing for truly hands-free driving in limited situations. BMW must have gotten a little jealous because it's implementing a similar system on its 2019 X5 SUV shortly after it goes on sale, according to Automotive News.

The system is called Extended Traffic Jam Assistant System (ETJAS) and will be available as a $1,700 option on 2019 X5 models starting in December. The driver-monitoring cameras live at the top of the instrument cluster, and while they actively monitor driver attention, they don't under any circumstance record and store footage.

One area in which Super Cruise and ETJAS differ is that, while the Cadillac system uses more expensive infrared cameras to monitor drivers, the BMW system uses optical cameras. One downside to this that the BMW could have trouble detecting a driver's eyes through polarized sunglasses, according to Sam Abuelsamid of Navigant Research.

Much like Tesla's Autopilot, BMW's system uses a system of cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors to enable it to drive semi-autonomously in specific situations. BMW also plans to expand this technology to the rest of its lineup over the coming months.

According to a release by BMW, ETJAS will allow hands-free and pedal-free driving on limited-access highways (think freeways) and on surface streets at speeds less than 37 miles per hour which should help take some of the pain out of a traffic-laden morning commute.

BMW is also working on its odd-looking iNext Level 3 autonomous vehicle, which it hopes to put into production by 2021, though currently, that vehicle would be unable to be sold in the US based on current laws. Audi, for example, is unable to offer its new A8 sedan with Traffic Jam Pilot in America for the same reason.