When it comes to innovations in safety and driver aids, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo, and a few other brands have long led the way, particularly in the realm of the use of technology to those ends. But the latest and greatest innovations in the field are often limited to a handful of the upper-tier cars from each brand, or at the least, beyond the reach of those that aren't buying luxury brands.

That may soon change, at least in regard to driver alertness technology. Mercedes-Benz and Volvo have had their own driver alertness monitoring/warning systems for several years now, but Bosch has just announced its own system, which may see the technology expand into the mainstream.

Bosch is one of the industry's largest suppliers, providing components and systems for many of the best cars on the road--including the likes of Mercedes, BMW, and Volvo. The Bosch Drowsiness Detection System is its own solution to the driver alertness issue, and can be implemented in nearly any car, with the right equipment. It uses information from either the electric power steering system or the stability control system to evaluate driver inputs and look for signs of drowsiness. Using the existing sensors means expensive radar- or camera-based sensors aren't required, lowering the cost and making it more suitable to less-expensive cars.

One of the first to feature the new Drowsiness Detection System is the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, unveiled at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show last November, and shown in the U.S. as a concept at the 2012 New York Auto Show--it's not yet settled whether the Alltrack will be sold in the U.S.

But the real question is, with high-tech safety systems becoming more commoditized, with the Drowsiness Detection System as an example, are we primed for a wider prevalence of what was once the province of the upper tier of the luxury market--even just a few years ago? Perhaps. We've already seen similar widespread implementation of navigation, voice controls, and other once-high-tech features.

Modern CAN (Controller Area Network) bus systems sharing information on the fly and offering a modular upgrade capability make adding a system like Bosche's a matter of tapping into the network and sending the proper messages once the hardware is in place. And with supplier production and the resultant volume, prices will likely fall, making it more accessible.