Law Offices of Paul K. Schrier, PLLC

New technology will keep you from nodding off behind the wheel

While the nation is rightfully concerned about texting drivers, distracted drivers and incompetent drivers, falling asleep at the wheel can happen to even the best of us. According to the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC) traffic accident statistics, an estimated one out of every 25 drivers report falling asleep at the wheel in a given month. Fortunately, rumble strips and honking horns wake up most drivers who have nodded off before a serious accident occurs, but each year thousands of accidents happen across Florida and the nation because of driver fatigue.

Will New Artificial Intelligence Technology Help?

According to a recent article in PCMagazine, Panasonic has devised new technology designed to recognize the tell-tale signs of a driver nodding off behind the wheel. The technology takes a different approach to falling asleep at the wheel. Rather than simply sounding an alarm to alert the driver, the new in-car system can actually detect the level of the driver’s drowsiness and kicks in to help keep the driver awake?

Levels Of Drowsiness

Sleep researchers have discovered that a driver actually progresses through five levels of drowsiness prior to drifting off to sleep. As you might expect, the levels range from slightly drowsy to seriously drowsy. Each level results in various behaviors and a further reduction in reaction time.

The new technology includes a camera and other sensors imbedded in the dashboard display, which can read facial expressions and count the number of times the driver blinks. Changes in the level of drowsiness will automatically trigger an increase in the ambient light in the cabin of the car, while also lowering the temperature. According to researchers, “Changing the air flow and general temperature combined with adjusting the brightness of the environment can counteract the oncoming drowsiness.”

Pushing Past Too Drowsy

While no artificial intelligence will ever be able to completely overcome an overtired driver’s negligence, Panasonic has taken into account the driver who becomes so tired that even cooler air and brighter lights can’t help. If the system detects the tell-tale signs of extreme drowsiness, an alarm will sound, including a warning to pull over and get some sleep…hopefully before killing someone.

The technology is in the final stages of testing and should be available for auto manufacturers to start putting into their 2018 model year cars in October of this year.

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