Driver fatigue may be a contributory factor in up to 20% of road accidents and up to a quarter of fatal and serious accidents, according to research by the British Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
Car manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to make their vehicles safer, especially since safety can be a strong selling point, so technology company Plessey has developed a sensor solution to monitor driver fatigue based on its EPIC sensor technology.
Until recently, measuring ECG in a car meant the driver having a set of electrodes attached to his/her bare chest using gel. However, because the EPIC sensor utilizes capacitive coupling, it doesn’t rely on good skin contact and can actually measure ECG through normal clothing and seat cover fabric. By monitoring a parameter called Heart Rate Variability (HRV) – which is a measure of how stable the heart rate is from beat to beat – it is possible to tell when the driver is starting to become sleepy.
Plessey recommends an array of sensors built into the seat back, so that the optimal sensing location can be chosen, regardless of the driver’s height and build.
Movement noise is minimized by placing the sensors away from the shoulders on the lower part of the seat back. The system uses a capacitive driven ground plane, which can also be placed under the seat cover fabric on the base of the seat, to produce a completely hidden system.
Plessey’s own tests show that more than 95% of heart beat peaks were detected during a ten minute trial over a variety of driving conditions.
Plessey has evaluation kits for car manufacturers and suppliers to test their system. So in the near future car makers may begin offering vehicles with this safety technology.
For more information, including technical information and demonstration videos, visit their website http://www.plesseysemiconductors.com.