A new technology developed by British technology company Plessey aims to reduce the number of car accidents that happen as a result of driver fatigue through the use of a smart car seat. Driving while drowsy is ranked as one of the top 20 reasons why crashes occur, and, as in the notorious case of Englishman Gary Hart who was jailed in 2001 for causing the deaths of 10 people in a train derailment after falling asleep at the wheel, the results can be catastrophic.
The new technology, based around a chipset called EPIC, works by measuring the driver’s ECG (heartbeat) through signals picked up from a set of car seat sensors. The sensors monitor a parameter called Heart Rate Variability (HRV) which is a measure of how stable the heart rate is and therefore how sleepy the driver is likely to be.
The system, which is currently at demonstration stage, can be embedded into any car seat back, and the whole 6 sensor array can be hooked up to a USB device or integrated vehicle computer to offer a variety of warnings or actions when the situation becomes serious. The company is now actively looking for car manufacturers who could be interested in trialing the technology with a view to integrating it into their product line.
With research from the British Royal Society For The Prevention of Accidents suggesting that up to a quarter of fatal and serious accidents may arise from driver fatigue, this is one technology that could be a welcome addition to the growing list of driver aids coming onto the market.