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DaVinci Coders
March 14th, 2007 at 2:23 pm

Car Seat Is a Wake-Up Call To Dozing Drivers

It could prevent "The Big Sleep."  Japanese scientists are working on a car seat which can detect when a driver is about to fall asleep at the wheel.

It could prevent "The Big Sleep."  Japanese scientists are working on a car seat which can detect when a driver is about to fall asleep at the wheel.

The team say they have pinpointed a series of signals from a person’s body which indicate they are about 10 minutes from dropping off.

Their next step is to figure out what kind of signal the computer within the car seat should deliver in order to alert the driver.

In the UK an estimated 300 people a year are killed because of a driver falling asleep, with sleeping at the wheel causing about 20% of crashes on motorways and trunk roads.

The new car seat contains sensors which are able to read and record a heartbeat even if the driver is wearing bulky clothes. The seat also contains sensors able to read and analyse perspiration.

By combining the two sets of data the team believe they can pinpoint when a driver is 10 minutes from falling asleep. A key indicator is a minute change in the chambers of the heart, which while it does not involve the pulse slowing down, can nevertheless be picked up by sensors.

Shigehiko Kaneko, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Tokyo, who was part of the team working on the project, said: "This is a very serious issue in Japan, especially for truck and bus drivers who often drive at night and who are trying to work through abnormal hours."

However, the technology has been greeted with scepticism by UK researchers.

Professor Jim Horne of Loughborough University, the main UK centre for the study of nodding off at the wheel, said: "I’m not at all convinced by this and our research does not show that heartbeat is an indicator of when a person is about to fall asleep. What actually tends to happen in that the driving behaviour changes and that can be detected and analysed."

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Via Scotsman News

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