Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) have developed a new ‘steering-input’ method to detect when drivers are dangerously fatigued.
Two experiments were conducted during the development phase, which lead researchers to conclude that lane-placement and steering wheel input were the best indicators of a driver’s attention-level.
Twenty-nine participants took part in a simulated 10-day ‘night shift’ schedule, such that they were affected by a moderate level of fatigue when put behind a wheel.
During each night shift, the volunteers completed four journeys of 30 minutes each using a driving simulator, which measured 87 variables including speed, acceleration, steering input and lane positioning.
The researchers found that steering input offered the earliest indication that a driver was affected by fatigue, before a camera could detect if the driver’s vehicle was drifting out of its lane.
“Video-based systems that use cameras to detect when a car is drifting out of its lane are cumbersome and expensive,” WSU’s Hans Van Dongen said.
“They don’t work well on snow-covered or curvy roads, in darkness or when lane markers are faded or missing. Our invention provides an inexpensive and user-friendly technology that overcomes these limitations and can help catch fatigue earlier, well before accidents are likely to happen.”
The research team is tight-lipped for now on exactly how the technology works. The system however is reportedly relatively inexpensive and could complement existing fatigue detection technology or be offered as an after-market kit.