Technology against drowsy driving

Drowsy driving, also known as tired or fatigued driving, is the operation of a motor vehicle while being cognitively impaired by a lack of sleep.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests that drivers who miss between one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk of a crash.

Almost one out of three drivers in the U.S. admit to driving when they were so tired that they had difficulty keeping their eyes open. It is estimated that approximately 20% of traffic accidents involve driver fatigue.

There are two main causes of driver fatigue: lack of quality/quantity of sleep and driving at times of the day when the person would normally be sleeping.

Sleepiness or fatigue causes impaired reaction time, judgment and vision; problems with information processing and short-term memory; decreased performance, vigilance, and motivation.

Built-in systems

There are several different built-in technologies used in the automotive industry to ensure the safety and security of drivers and passengers.

Vehicle Safety Technologies

  • Electronic stability control (ESC)
  • Warning and emergency braking systems
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Speed alert

Driver drowsiness detection

  • Steering pattern monitoring
  • Vehicle position in line monitoring (video, laser or infrared sensors)

Mercedes: Attention Assist

During the first few minutes of driving Attention Assist creates an individual profile of the driver’s driving style which is then constantly compared to the latest feedback from the sensors. A sensitive system records steering movements and steering speed. The drivers who are tired will keep making minor mistakes and correct them. If the system detects this sort of behavior it will go on to check further relevant parameters in order to verify the result, for example how long has the driver been at the wheel, is the driver showing signs of activity. If the results are unequivocal the system will alert the driver with a sign that is time for a break.

Volvo: Driver Alert Control (DAC)

Driver Alert is activated when speed exceeds 65 km/h and remains active as long as the speed is over 60 km/h. Using a camera the system monitors the car’s movements between the lane markings. The driver’s current level of concentration is shown on a five-point scale. When a concentration drops below a certain level, the driver is alerted with an alarm and a message suggesting that it’s time to take a break.

Nissan: Driver Attention Alert

When the vehicle is traveling above 60 km/h, the system monitors steering behavior to detect changes from the baseline pattern using a statistical analysis of steering correction errors. The system adapts to each individual driver. If it detects driver’s fatigue or that his attention is decreasing, the information “Take a break” appears in the vehicle’s information display. The system automatically resets when the engine is turned off.

External devices

Anti Sleep Pilot

Before first use, the driver should answer some questions online to find his risk profile. The device is mounted on a dashboard and before the ride driver should set the fatigue status on a given day. It calculates driver’s fatigue level based on his personal risk profile, fatigue status before the trip and data from his driving. By analyzing this information the gadget will display the current state of driver’s fatigue. Occasionally, the control signal is released: then the device must be padded. If the reaction time is too long, the driver has to take
a break. When driver’s fatigue level begins to reach a critical point the Anti Sleep Pilot uses both audible and visual signals to let him know it’s time to take a break. Anti Sleep Pilot was introduced a few years ago, unfortunately it’s currently unavailable online.


Stopsleep is worn on finger that continually measures driver’s levels of awareness and concentration by using eight built-in sensors which monitor electrodermal activity. The electrical conductivity of the skin varies, depending on the activity of the brain. The processing algorithm of the signal, which is used in the anti sleep alarm is used in detection of the following two states: falling asleep (characterized by a strong signal decrease) and reduction of reaction (which can be called by the start of drowsiness, deep thought or boredom). Before falling asleep, the skin conductivity sharply decreases. The device responds immediately, providing loud sound and vibration warnings.

Advicy Drive

A bracelet with a small Bluetooth sensor that measures driver’s heartbeat. It detects and analyzes his heartbeat from the skin through the AdvicyDrive APP on a smartphone. To check if you are driving safely or not Advicy Drive detects personal attention value. Driver performance is then shown in the circle and continuously monitored. If the cursor is in the green zone he is driving safely, but if the cursor moves in the red zone, his physical conditions are lower than the safety threshold and an alarm will warn the driver in order to prevent a possible falling asleep at the wheel.


Another heart-rate based driver alertness monitoring system is Warden. The system uses an array of sensors placed in a seatback to detect changes in electric potential in the human body. It senses the electrical impulses of the heart and returns an accurate R peak signal from the users ECG, this, in turn, can be used to calculate heart rate variance (HRV). The device provides early warning of drowsiness or health issues via the smartphone app.


Bluetooth headset to identifies patterns in eye blinks to quantify how awake the users are. Vigo tracks eyes and head motion to measure the levels of alertness. When Vigo senses that driver is getting drowsy, it stimulates him with a combination of pulsing vibrations, music or flashing light. It’s also possible to check other user’s alertness levels since the data is sent to a cloud. The Vigo app can be used to see the history of driver’s alertness, trends and suggestions how to stay focused during long trips.

Optialert’s Eagle paired with wireless glasses

Driver’s drowsiness score is shown on a smartphone screen, when drivers reach high risk levels, the driver (and supervisors if the driver is working for a company) are warned. Optalert’s drowsiness detection glasses work by measuring the velocity of the operator’s eyelid 500 times a second using a LED built into the frame of the glasses. There are two key measurements: how fast and how far a person opens their eyelid. The results are showing on The Johns Drowsiness Scale (a 10-point scale where a score of 0 = ‘very alert’ and 10 = ‘very drowsy’).

Mobile Apps

There are also apps that might help the drivers to stay alert during long trips.

Stay Awake Pro: one way of staying awake while driving is by talking to your passengers. But what if you’re driving alone? You can set a “Talk to me” option and repeat words spoken by the voice from the app. If you miss a word it lets you know by sounding the alarm to keep you active.

Drive Awake: the app detects your eyes for wakefulness and sounds an alarm if they close. It also includes a secondary feature. The app was created by Café Amazon and will direct you to the nearest café if your eyes start to close.

Artificial Intelligence

While most of the systems use signs of a coffee cup or voice signals to let drivers know when to pull over and rest, Panasonic is developing a system that will make them feel more awaken without them even noticing. The sys-tem is using artificial intelligence to detect and predict driver’s drowsiness.

First, the camera catches the facial expressions and eyeblinks of the driver. The detected levels of drowsiness range from 1 (not drowsy at all) to 5 (seriously drowsy). Then, to predict how the level of drowsiness will rise, the system analyzes the environment. The driver is less likely to feel drowsy when the temperature of his body is high and the temperature inside the vehicle is low. Drowsiness also changes at different speeds depending on the level of light, so the system considers also the brightness of the environment.

Then, after analyzing all the data, the system predicts how fast the driver will get drowsy. He might not feel drowsy now, but the system predicts it could happen in the future, so it provides cool air in advance. However, if the driver’s body temperature will get too low, and he will start to feel uncom-fortable, the system will change the volume of music as another way to awake the driver.

Drive safe

Built-in systems, external devices and apps can prevent accidents caused by the operators getting drowsy. However, drivers should always use common sense and good judgment while driving.

Before hitting the road, drivers should:

  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Plan to drive long trips with a companion
  • Schedule regular stops
  • Avoid alcohol and medications

Here are some signs that should tell a driver to stop and rest:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
  • Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven, missing exits or traffic signs
  • Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting from lane
  • Feeling restless and irritable