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Posted on Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017 at 1:56 pm    

Most drivers probably experience feeling drowsy while driving. There is a term to describe this phenomenon called microsleep which describes the brief state of drowsy unconsciousness that can happen even if your eyes remain open. According to statistic from NHTSA, drowsy driving resulted in 824 deaths in 2015.

Currently, some automobile companies such as Audi, Mercedes and Volvo offer drowsy detection systems which monitor the vehicles movements and can detect when a driver is experiencing drowsiness. When these systems detect the driver has become drowsy, they typically warn the driver with sound and a coffee cup icon appears on the dash.

However, many car companies and suppliers are working on more advanced systems for addressing driver drowsiness. One system uses sensors placed in the seat that monitor changes in the heart rate of the driver to detect drowsiness.

Bosch is working on a camera based system that will monitor head and eye movements, heart rate and body temperature to detect drowsiness. Some companies are experimenting with coupling such a system with autonomous driving vehicles so that the autonomous driving system would take over once drowsiness is detected and possibly pull the vehicle over to the side of the road and stopping. Another system being developed by Nvidia is an artificial intelligence tool that can learn the normal behavior patterns of a driver and recognize when the driver is operating outside the norms. The system will use these deviations to warn the driver so the driver can take appropriate steps.

Volvo has offered an advanced detection system for almost a decade called Driver Alert. The system studies the behavior of the car rather than the driver and uses such factors as the ability of the car to stay in its lane to determine drowsiness. Volvo claims the system detects drowsiness with 97% accuracy.

Mark Rosekind, the former head of NHTSA and expert on human fatigue states that “Until autonomous vehicles are a reality, drowsiness is something that everyone needs to worry about, our tendency is to say we are wide-awake when in reality we can fall asleep in a second.” Because sleep is a biological need, the best solution for drowsiness is still a low tech one: Pull over and take a nap.

Source: An article appearing in the New York Times on March 17, 2017 entitled “Your Car May Soon Know When You Are Too Sleepy to Drive” by Eric A. Taub.