, according to figures from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), there were 697 fatalities caused by “drowsy driving
.” In 2017, there were 91,000 police-reported crashes caused by a tired driver. Around 50,000 people were injured as a result.
On the other side of the Atlantic in the UK, the nation’s Automobile Association (the AA) says that one in five accidents
on major roads are a result of driver tiredness.
In fact, driver fatigue is said to be a contributing factor in 20% of all road traffic accidents. That figure rises to 25% for fatal incidents. If we turn our attention to trucking, driver fatigue contributes to some 30 to 40% of accidents where haulage vehicles are involved.
A new class of safety feature
Cars are safer than they’ve ever been before. Passive safety features like three-point seatbelts, airbags and crumple zones are standard. And active safety technologies like ABS, automatic emergency braking and lane keep assistants are becoming common. However, none of these systems considers the state of the driver.
If we’re to realize the next generation of vehicle and road safety, we need to develop safety systems that don’t just respond to accidents or focus outwardly on the road ahead, but instead, turn their gaze into the cabin to focus on the driver.
Driver monitoring systems
(DMS) are the obvious answer – while not an entirely new concept, they are growing in use. They’re set to become a new standard in vehicle safety as rating agencies like Euro NCAP
require them for cars to take the highest safety score.
These safety systems are already being used to ensure that drivers are paying attention to the road, as part of some ADAS technologies. Generally speaking, they’re designed to alert the driver if their attention begins to drift. Audio and visual alerts will attempt to bring the driver’s presence of mind back to the road, to ensure they continue to drive safely. But for most, that’s where the functionality ends.
Prompting the driver to pay attention if their eyes drift from the road is clearly a good thing in the moment, but what if their attention is chronically reduced and it’s not just a momentary lapse of concentration? What if they’re repeatedly distracted, fatigued, struggling to keep their eyes open, and thinking slower than normal?
The first step to safety
The first challenge is being able to interpret the signs of a drowsy driver–which means recognizing the difference between a momentary lapse of concentration and genuine, accident-causing fatigue.
Affectiva, recently acquired by Smart Eye
, a provider of AI-based eye tracking and driver monitoring systems, is attempting to address this challenge in collaboration with TomTom.
Affectiva developed Emotion AI and Human Perception AI categories. Built on deep learning, computer vision, speech science and masses of real-world data. Affectiva says its technology can now detect nuanced human emotions, complex cognitive states, activities, interactions and objects people use. Integrating the company’s technology in a vehicle cabin helps automakers understand what is happening behind the wheel of a vehicle to deliver advanced safety features.
The company’s drowsiness detection technology, integrated with the TomTom-powered navigation system, can use driver facing cameras to continually monitor how attentive the driver is to the road ahead. When the driver is detected as being moderately to severely drowsy, the TomTom Navigation Application can intervene to ensure the driver reacts and responds safely to their fatigue.