Sunday, December 03, 2006

Mercedes wants to wake up sleepy drivers

Keeping drivers awake to avoid accidents ...

"According to various scientific studies, between 10 and 20 per cent of serious traffic accidents can be attributed to drowsiness and fatigue. In the U.S. alone, over 100,000 accidents are caused by driver fatigue every year, in which 1,500 people are killed and a further 71,000 injured. So Mercedes-Benz is developing a warning system for sleepy drivers. An interdisciplinary team of engineers, computer scientists and psychologists at Mercedes-Benz is developing a system to save many lives and which should be ready in a few years.

Before looking at the Mercedes project, I want to tell you why I was reluctant to write about it before. There are literally dozens of car-related websites and blogs talking about this initiative, and the ones who dare to mention a source say it's a press release from the DaimlerChrysler group.

But there is no press release about this project, neither on the DaimlerChrysler website or on the Mercedes-Benz one. Moreover, I've searched specifically for press releases via specialized search engines and I haven't found anything. Does this mean the information is fake or that someone had a privileged access to some valid information? As I think that it would be difficult to mislead so many specialized sites, I've concluded that the information was valid even if I didn't have access to the source.

So let's start with why a tired driver is dangerous for himself and others. Simply, he has reactions similar to a drunken driver.

The phenomenon that threatens to occur in this type of situation is referred to by experts as "microsleep": a spontaneous reaction of the human organism to over-fatigue. The eyes sting, the lids blink more frequently but more slowly too, the pupils become smaller, the driver yawns and shivers — all telltale warning signs of this phenomenon. Should the eyes remain closed for just one second longer than usual the consequences can be fatal, as in this second the car covers a whole 28 metres when travelling at a speed of 100 km/h - effectively driverless and therefore out of control."    (Continued via ZDNet)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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