Saab plots device that detects early stages of tiredness

SaabSaab is launching an in-car warning system that detects when drivers are tired and which advises them to stop for a rest.

The General Motors-owned marque is test-marketing the Driver Attention Warning System (DAWS) on its 9-3 Sport Wagon in Sweden for eight months. If successful, it could be introduced in Saab models across Europe next year.

According to Saab, research shows that 20% of accidents are caused by tired drivers and that more than 300 people each year are killed in the UK as a result of drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

The car marque says that, unlike other similar systems, DAWS does not rely on measuring an erratic change of direction of a vehicle. It is designed to detect the onset of drowsiness or inattention, rather than the immediate consequences.

DAWS uses two miniature infrared cameras that are focused on the driver’s eyes. The images from the cameras are analysed by software that triggers a series of alerts when the pattern of eyelid movement indicates the onset of drowsiness.

In the first instance, a chime sounds and a text message saying “Tired?” is displayed on the main instrument panel. If the driver’s eyelid movement does not immediately revert to a “normal wide awake pattern”, a speech message saying “You are tired” is then played over the car’s audio system. If there is still no response, a final warning of “You are dangerously tired – stop as soon as it is safe to do so” is then played.

DAWS also uses vibrating seat cushions to alert drivers they are tired.

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