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Soon Your Car May Tell You When You Need to Rest Up

Many sleep-deprived drivers are on America’s roads. Drowsy drivers are responsible for a significant number of motor vehicle accidents each year. In an effort to combat this problem car manufacturers are developing smarter vehicles that can sense when a driver may be nodding off.

Ford recently announced that “lane-keeping technology” would be offered as an option on the 2013 Explorer and Fusion. The system uses a camera attached to the rear-view mirror. When a vehicle is going over 40 mph the technology senses unintentional veering by using lane markings. Unless a turn signal is activated, the system will begin to vibrate the steering wheel to alert the driver.

The system even goes one step further. If the driver neglects to correct the problem, the technology uses the power steering system to direct the vehicle back into the middle of the lane.

Although such lane-keeping technology sounds great, as may be expected with any fully automated system, there are a few glitches. Sometimes the camera may be unable to detect lane markings, for instance on certain types of curbs, during severe weather or when the sun is at particular angles. If the system is unable to detect the lane markings it won’t activate.

Ford has also developed a “Driver Alert System” which warns a driver when it senses a pattern of driving indicating potential drowsiness (like weaving within a lane). A chime then sounds and the dashboard message displays “Rest suggested.” If the behavior continues another louder chime sounds and “Rest now” is displayed on the dash.

These systems may help notify drivers when they need to rest, but people should also know their own bodies without relying on these technologies. If you feel tired pull off the road, get some rest and don’t resume driving until you feel awake and alert.

Source: New York Times, Trying to Nudge Drowsy Drivers, Randall Stross, 21 January 2012