To prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel and potentially causing deadly accidents, researchers have developed everything from smartphone apps, to intelligent bracelets, to even facial tracking dashcams. But scientists at Washington State University have come up with a much cheaper method that simply monitors the movements of a car's steering wheel.
The additional hardware requirements for the new system are next to none, especially for vehicles like those from Infiniti that already use an electronic steering system. At most, a cheap sensor to track the position of the steering wheel would need to be installed. Because after performing extensive tests, the researchers discovered that steering wheel movement and varying lane position were the two best factors for predicting fatigue.
If you think about it, you're constantly making small adjustments to the steering wheel as you drive. But as you get sleepy, the frequency in those adjustments drops dramatically, and that's easy to detect. The software can also tell if a vehicle starts drifting into another lane, well before there's a risk of hitting another car.
And since the system isn't dependent on where the driver sits, and doesn't require them to wear a special device, it works no matter who is behind the wheel—without the driver having to do anything. So here's to hoping carmakers see the potential in this simple added feature that could potentially save a lot of lives. [Washington State University via Gizmag]