Thursday, July 9, 2009

Drowsy Driving: Mercedes, SAAB Develop Prevention Systems

Car makers Mercedes-Benz and SAAB are both using high-tech systems to help prevent drowsy-driving accidents.

Mercedes introduced its
Attention Assist system as a standard feature of the 2010 E-Class. Sensors measure more than 70 parameters to monitor your alertness.

They keep track of your speed and acceleration. The sensors record your use of turn indicators and pedals. They even take into account external factors such as wind.

But the system focuses on your steering behavior. It detects minor steering errors that often occur in the early stages of drowsiness.

Attention Assist then warns you when you are at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. A chime sounds, and a message appears on the instrument display. It shows a coffee cup with the words, “Attention Assist: Time for a break?”

You can see the system in action in this interactive,
online test drive of the new E-Class.

SAAB is taking a different approach. Its
Driver Attention Warning System uses an infrared camera to keep an eye on your eyes.

Software analyzes the image and measures your rate of eye blinking. Warnings occur when it detects drowsy eye-lid closures.

First a chime sounds, and a warning appears on the instrument panel. Then verbal warning messages are played through the car’s sound system.

The camera also monitors movement of the head and eyes. If you look away from the road for too long, your seat cushion will vibrate.

“It is a fact that many drivers do not stop and get out of the car if they are feeling drowsy,” SAAB representative Arne Nabo said in a prepared statement. “So we are now trying to help drivers to help themselves.”

SAAB also is developing a TV ad called “Sleep Attack.” It shows a drowsy-driving accident from the driver’s point of view. See an online
storyboard of the ad.

The ad’s message is simple and direct: “Sleep before you drive.”

Learn more about drowsy driving on

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