Saab battles sleeping drivers

06 November 2007

Saab is testing a system to stop drivers falling asleep or failing to pay sufficient attention when they are at the wheel.

The Driver Attention Warning System alerts the driver to a potential problem by using a combination of text and voice messages or vibrations in the seat cushion.

It senses drowsiness or inattentiveness by using two miniature infrared cameras, which focus on the driver's eyes and measure eyelid movement. If the driver's eyelids close for a long period, the warning system initiates.

The initial drowsiness warning is a chime and a text message on the dash, saying 'Tired?'

If there is no immediate response (such as the driver opening his eyes), a voice message says, 'You are tired'. Finally, if there is still no response, a louder voice chides, 'You are dangerously tired - stop as soon as it is safe to do so!'

The final warning is only switched off when the driver presses a reset button.

The inattention detection works by checking where the driver's eyes are looking. If they stray from the ideal area for more than two seconds, the seat vibrates.

The system is programmed to detect if the driver is using the rear view mirror or looking round to turn a corner, and will not vibrate the seat if they are.

In testing
Although no date has been set for the system to be used in production cars, it is currently undergoing trials in a Saab 9-3 Sport Wagon.

The eight-month field trial will be supervised by the Road and Transport Research Institute in Sweden.

Once the trial is over, Saab will evaluate when it can be fitted to production models.

Research has shown that drowsiness contributes to 20% of accidents, with 300 people a year in the UK being killed as a result of falling asleep at the wheel.

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