Dozy drivers will soon be alerted with a device that detects their drowsiness and wakes them up to stop for a rest.
Swedish aviation, defense and car manufacturing company Saab is launching an in-car warning system that uses two tiny infra-red cameras linked to a dashboard computer to monitor alertness.
According to Saab, research shows that 20 percent of accidents are caused due to tired drivers and that more than 300 people each year are killed in the UK as a result of drivers falling asleep at the wheel.
Known as the driver attention warning system, the device is designed to detect the onset of drowsiness or inattention, rather than the immediate consequences.
It uses two miniature infrared cameras that are focused on the driver’s eyes. The images from the cameras are analysed by software that triggers a series of alerts when the pattern of eyelid movement indicates the onset of drowsiness.
The system measures the driver’s rate of eye blinking. When the cameras detect a pattern of long duration eye-lid closures, indicating the potential onset of drowsiness, a series of three warnings is initiated.
In the first instance, a chime sounds and a text warning message "Tired?" is displayed in the main instrument panel. If the driver’s eye-lid movement does not immediately revert to a normal ‘wide awake’ pattern, a speech message "You are tired" is then delivered through the car’s audio system.
If there is still no response, a stronger warning tone and the message, "You are dangerously tired – stop as soon as it is safe to do so!" will come over the audio. This can only be cancelled when the driver presses a reset button in the fascia. The system is then immediately reactivated.
The system also recognizes when a driver moves but retains peripheral vision of the road ahead, and allows a little longer before activating the seat vibration.
The infra-red imaging allows the device to work at any time, even if the driver is wearing dark glasses.
"Many drivers do not stop and get out of the car if they are feeling drowsy. So we are trying to help drivers to help themselves," the Telegraph quoted Arne Nabo, head of the human vehicle integration team at Saab, as saying.