In 2013, there were 32,719 vehicle fatalities in the United States. While no exact number exists for the percentage of that number that is due to drivers falling asleep at the wheel, insurance companies often estimate it to be some 10%. Do the math and you’ll find that some 3300 people per year die as a result of nodding off at the wheel.
Asleep at the Wheel
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a technology built into your car could sense when you were falling asleep behind the wheel and woke you up before anything happened? Many companies have worked on this but one today has a promising system that works.
Harken, a European technology consortium, explains that they have a prototype system that uses “smart textiles” (textiles with conductive properties) that monitor a driver’s heart and breathing rates. If it appears that the driver is nodding off, a wake up alarm can be sounded.
How accurate is it, you might wonder? “The rhythm of heart beats, specifically heart rate and heart rate variability, are good indicators of concentration and wakefulness,” states a researcher at Harkin. Basically, by measuring these parameters, the engineers at Harken have developed an algorithm that senses when a driver is getting sleepy.
Press Releases from Harkin state that the system has been privately tested with great results and is moving into real world testing. If this technology works as well as expected, a vast number of lives could be saved every year.