Human error is to blame for the large majority of car accidents. Estimates suggest that roughly 19 out of 20 accidents are caused by mistakes made by one or more drivers. Eliminating those mistakes is the key to reducing deaths and injuries on American roads. One of the underlying factors behind many driver errors is fatigue. One company believes that it has a device capable of reducing the accidents caused by drowsy drivers.

How it works

Panasonic’s device monitors a driver’s condition in an attempt to discern when the driver is fatigued. The company claims it can identify the level of drowsiness exhibited by the driver and use environmental controls to return the driver to a safe level of wakefulness. Panasonic acknowledges that there is a state of fatigue too advanced to be combated by the system and installed an alarm that will sound if the driver reaches that point.

The system depends on changes to temperature, air flow and lighting levels to keep drivers alert. A dim, warm, still cabin might be the right setting for a nap, but it is a dangerous condition for a driver battling fatigue. The system differs from others by making the environmental changes automatically, based on information gathered by an infrared array sensor and in-cabin camera.

Safety questions

Experts are likely to shy away from a device that seems to rely on advice that has not worked in the past. Drivers who attempt to overcome drowsiness by rolling down the windows, blasting the air conditioning or turning up the volume on their stereo are ignoring the guidance of sleep experts. If you are tired, you should not be driving. If you are falling asleep, remedies like coffee or a blaring radio do not address the core problem. There is no substitute for adequate rest. A body that is short on sleep will not function as well as it would after getting additional rest.

Source: PC Magazine, “Panasonic Uses AI to Keep Drowsy Drivers Awake,” by Matthew Humphries, 31 July 2017