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Car drivers are usually advised not to drive when tired as their dozing-off might lead to fatal accident. This is especially true when no one is in the car to warn the driver. Driver fatigue is a contributing factor in 1/5 motorway accidents. In order to deal with the prevalent issue, Nottingham Trent University researchers are developing special car seats to wake up the driver from sleep.
Plessey Semiconductors – A UK firm initially mounted sensors on car seats to monitor heart rate, which also warn the driver if they fall asleep. However, researchers from Nottingham Trent University are proposing an actual textile with embedded sensors.
The fabric based sensor system can warn the drivers to pull over the car. If there is no response, the system can take over the vehicle such as active cruise control or lane departure tech to prevent accidents. It can also send the sensor data to a wireless network for any further action.
The measurement of heart rate through the fabric system has already been demonstrated. The only concern left is the consistency and the reliability of the heart rate data to use as a warning system. This will be the first technology of its kind which can reliably measure cardiac signals in an automotive environment without sensors having any direct contact with the body.
How does sleep correlate with the heart rate? During sleep state, our physiological functions are reduced including brain activity, breathing, heart rate and body temperature. The heart rate slows down during REM (deep) sleep while it remains at normal rate during non-REM sleep. The researchers have exploited this variability to detect if a person has started dozing-off.
The university is granted US$151,046 as part of the funding for the project. If the project is successful, the initial target will be lorry drivers with the luxury cars coming after that.