There are several products that don't require a view of the roadway to monitor driver drowsyness. One of them watches the drivers eyes and monitors blinking, another one monitors the drivers head motions and position. while a third system pays attention to how the driver moves the steering wheel. I would favor a system that kept track of the drivers brain wave patterns, however, the logistics and technology of such a system would be a daunting challenge.
My point is that it is not nesessary to utilize the roadway to detect the changes in a driver becoming drowsy.
I'm glad to see that (so far) they have only added a warning and not tried to take control of the car. Since it does have options built in, I wonder if there is an option to shut it off (even if the feature becomes mandatory). Since it is being based soley on the road condition, I can see some situations where it could be an annoyance.
I do hope that it doesn't get to be another one of those safety features that people rely on when they would have stayed off the road without it.
Rob, I did not think that anti-lock brakes would become mandatory either, but now we are stuck with them. And they are hoping to mandate stability controll as well. The problem with the stability control system is that it is predicated on the driver making all of the wrong moves. It will undoubtedly take the loss of many lives to convince the safety people that the control algorithm is not, and never will be, able to make the correct decision much more than half the time. That is commonly called the un-intended results of some mandate that "seemed like a good idea at the time".
But just waking a drowsing driver before they fall too soundly to sleep seems quite unable to cause any serious problems.
I agree, William, safety is not a strong selling point. The safety features that are common on our vehicles now were mandated -- seat belts, air bags. I can't imagine the drowsy driver function will ever become mandated. Still, it could be useful on long trips.
I simply do not believe the reported number of deaths that will be avoided by means of vehicle stability control systems. There is no given source, and it is clearly somebodie's number pulled out of the air. What we will get when we can no longer purchase a vehicle without these features, is a huge dumbing down of driving skills. It is one thing to offer a system that would protect beginning drivers, it is an entirely different thing to force all drivers to buy a system that will not make the best choice most of the time. That is where I see the problem. As with our present ABS package that has no clue as to the best way to stop on gravel or sand, or, worse yet, on a road covered with wet leaves. So please get big-brother off of my back!
As a worth while alternative, how about making the drivers test a lot more comprehensive, and including a bit of driving with a simulator. Not only would it make our roads safer, but it could reduce the number of drivers as a whole, and reduce roadway crowding.
Once again, safety does not sell, we all know that the only way to get people to buy safety systems is to force them to buy them. If everybody wanted to be so safe, they would all be driving Volvos, however, as you probably have noticed, not everybody is driving them.
I should have added that the data picture regarding drowsy driving is even worse if you look beyond the deaths figure I mentioned in the previous comment and add in overall crash data. According to NHTSA, the annual average over the 5-year period of 2005-2009 includes the afforementioned 886 deaths, but also 37,000 injuries per year caused by drowsy driving and another 45,000 involving property damage only.
Great information, Alex. If you add those 832 deaths that you've mentioned here to all of the annual deaths that could be prevented by vehicle-to-vehicle communications (30,000 per year) and electronic stability control (10,000 per year for this feature, which is now mandated by law), it becomes obvious that automakers believe safety will be enhanced by progressively allowing the electronics to take control of steering and braking. Over the next ten years, we'll see an increasing number of vehicles incorporate the three main building blocks of autonomous safety: adaptive cruise control; lanekeeping; and collison avoidance. I've said elsewhere on this site that I have no intention of letting an autonomous vehicle cart me around, but over the next 20-30 years, I may not have a lot of choice.
Here are some interesting metrics from NHTSA, in their Traffic Safety Facts newsletter (pdf download) from March, 2011. It says that "drowsy driving was reportedly involved in 2.2% to 2.6% of total fatal crashes annually during the period 2005 to 2009." In 2009, this equated to 832 deaths. From this I think we can qualitatively see that Ford's lane-keeping technology will have some real-world positive impact. (Though I guess impact is not the best choice of word.)
I know exactly how to test a drowsy driver detection system, since we did it for almost a year. The fact is that simulations produce simulated data, and only an actual test with real truck drivers in a regular truck will produce valid data, which is what we did. BUt since this blog would not accept my first entry on the topic, it will not be repeated. BUt the conclusion is that watching a professional driver become drowsy enough to make a mistake is both tedious and quite boring. But it does produce valid data.
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