Whether it’s your own drowsiness or the fatigue of other people behind the wheel, being sleepy on the roadways is a considerable safety risk. While you can fall asleep at any time behind the wheel, it’s most common between midnight and 6 a.m. and in the late afternoon.
Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock that tells you when it’s normal to be asleep. Truck drivers, because of their unusual schedules and long working hours, are most at risk of being tired while driving or even falling asleep, but it can happen to anyone.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, causes of fatigue include being awake for many hours or not getting enough sleep over multiple days. Again, the time of day can play a role, as can being inactive or doing monotonous tasks for long periods. There are also health factors and conditions, including sleep disorders and medications, that can cause you to be drowsy while you drive.
Drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 accidents every year, according to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration.
As a result, some tech companies and car manufacturers are working to lower those numbers with technology to alert drowsy drivers.
There’s a general term, crash-avoidance technology, that might help with some of the problems arising from drowsy driving. It’s important to note, while technology and car features can help, they can’t ultimately reduce the risk entirely. The best thing you can do is make sure you’re well-rested before you get behind the wheel.
Crash-avoidance technology is a broad set of features, some of which are starting to be standard on new vehicles.
These features include adaptive headlights, which can help improve your night vision, especially around curves and corners, as well as forward-collision warning and emergency brake assistance. Lane departure warning and blind-spot detection are also crash-avoidance technology.
For drowsy drivers, possibly the most considerable help in this category of features are lane departure and forward-warning technology.
A forward-warning system will use cameras and sensors to detect if there’s a vehicle in front of you and you’re too close to it. Some of these systems have automatic braking as well.
A lane departure warning system will use a camera to track your vehicle’s position in your lane. The system will alert you if you go across your lane’s markings.
Telematics and Electronic Logging Devices
Truckers are being introduced to features that can help them fight against the effects of sleepy driving too.
For example, telematics solutions can provide pre-route planning, so that fleet managers can then adapt schedules based on seasonal patterns. This technology can also monitor drivers’ behavior and alert fleet managers if there are possibly dangerous trends.
With electronic logging devices, truck crashes can potentially be reduced by preventing fatigued driving.
Telematics can be combined with other technology, such as platforms that monitor steering patterns to alert of patterns known to indicate sleepiness.
Driver Fatigue Alarms
The crash-prevention systems mentioned above aren’t specifically for fatigue, although they can help.
Some car companies and tech companies are working on creating things that are specifically for driver fatigue.
For example, there are already fatigue alarms that monitor head movements and alert you when you’re nodding off. Then, building on that, Japanese and European car companies are working to put sensors into car seats that will detect your heart rate activity.
If your heart rate slows down significantly, it could mean you’re nodding off. The sensor will then bring the change in your heart rate to your attention to prevent a potential accident.
Plessey Semiconductors is developing algorithms as part of its seat monitoring sensors to indicate changes in breathing patterns.
Bosch, a company from Germany that supplies tech to car companies, is working on a camera system to monitor eye and head movements, body temperature, posture and heart rate.
If drowsiness were detected, theoretically, the car could take over driving itself, either pulling to the side of the road or coming to an emergency stop.
Nvidia, a chip supplier to major manufacturers like Tesla and Mercedes is developing the Co-Pilot. Co-Pilot is an AI tool that learns drivers’ behaviors on an individual basis to then determine when they might be operating outside of what’s normal for them.
There’s a lot of great technology available and on the horizon to help prevent drowsy driving accidents. You also still have to do your part to make sure you’re never even slightly tired when you get behind the wheel.