posted 3 years ago

Vibrating Steering Wheel Wakes Sleepy Drivers

Vibrating steering wheel wakes motorists that fall asleep behind the wheel.

Vibrating Steering Wheel Driver Alert System

A motorist that starts to fall asleep at the wheel could soon be woken by a vibrating steering wheel, vibrating seat or warning tone. The system – which is being developed by ARM Holdings in Cambridge and is some years from launch – incorporates a camera mounted in the rear-view mirror. It monitors the position of the motorist's head, eye alignment, facial expressions and blink rate for signs of fatigue. These include long, slow, blinks plus a lowered head. The system also scans for evidence that a driver is distracted by (say) an entertainment or satellite navigation system.

ARM Holdings Vice President, Richard York, says the technology is needed as distraction and fatigue are the main causes of accidents. He adds: “The evidence is that almost all accidents are caused by drivers not paying attention”, and that: “electronics can play a big role in looking into the vehicle to keep an eye on the driver”.

Vibrating Steering Wheel Radically Different Premise

The ARM Holdings concept works on a different premise than most of the current, mass produced, alert systems. These monitor the vehicle rather than its occupants then – based on how it is driven – conclude that a motorist is tired or not paying enough attention.

Volkswagen Driver Alert is such a system and scans for erratic steering movements and lane deviations. It emphasises any concerns via a light on the dashboard and an audible tone. If the motorist fails to stop for rest within fifteen minutes, the warning is repeated. The manufacture perceives this as an important safety feature as tiredness - or so it claims – causes twenty-five percent of collisions on the motorway. It says these “tend to be particularly serious because the sleepy driver has no chance to react and take avoiding action”. The vast majority of mass-market vehicle manufactures now provide lane departure warning technology.

It is increasingly common for vehicles to have an autonomous emergency braking system too. The technology comes in various forms but typically incorporates radar that scans the road ahead for hazards such as a slow car or pedestrian. It then estimates the required stopping distance. If this distance becomes to short the driver is warned via a light and a tone. Corrective action can then be taken. However, if the motorist fails to respond – perhaps because he/she has fallen asleep, is distracted, or panics – the  systems overrides any throttle inputs and performs a full-power emergency stop. The impact is then avoided or its severity reduced.