Apparently a team of engineers, cyberneticists, mathematicians, computer scientists and psychologists at Mercedes Benz is working on a system that will analyze drivers’ behavior for signs of microsleep to prevent motor vehicle accidents.
… initial results obtained by the engineers in Sindelfingen indicate that the observation of individual criteria alone does not allow reliable detection of tiredness. Fatigue is a highly complex phenomenon that can manifest itself in all manner of ways. In view of this, Mercedes-Benz will make use of a whole host of factors for fatigue detection, including the individual driving style, the duration of the journey, the time of day and the current traffic situation. By continually comparing this data with stored empirical values, the system will be able to compile an individual driver profile and use probability calculus to determine whether the driver is exhibiting the first signs of fatigue.
The principal goal of the development project is to detect the gradual transition from the state of being fully awake to being tired, in other words from high powers of concentration to a clear attention lapse, and warn the driver before he or she becomes over-fatigued and thereby jeopardises safety.
The phenomenon that threatens to occur in this type of situation is referred to by experts as “microsleep”: a spontaneous reaction of the human organism to over-fatigue. The eyes sting, the lids blink more frequently but more slowly too, the pupils become smaller, the driver yawns and shivers — all telltale warning signs of this phenomenon. Should the eyes remain closed for just one second longer than usual the consequences can be fatal, as in this second the car covers a whole 28 metres when travelling at a speed of 62mph — effectively driverless and therefore out of control.
Microsleep with the eyes still open, which is also regularly observed by scientists during their investigations, is no less perilous. In this state, the brain processes what the eyes see very slowly or not at all, greatly lengthening the reaction times.
Most road accidents caused by over-fatigue occur in the early hours of the morning between 0200 and 0600 as well as in the afternoon, according to studies carried out by insurance companies in Germany and the Swiss Advisory Agency for Accident Prevention. As well as fatigue, this fact can also be attributed to our biorhythms, as the human body is programmed for sleep and recuperation at these times. Human performance levels drop rapidly after 2200, reaching their lowest point between 0300 and 0400. Performance levels do not return to their maximum until the morning, which is the best time of day for long journeys.
The driver assistance system being designed by Mercedes-Benz for automatically detecting the first signs of fatigue and warning the driver accordingly can therefore make a vital contribution to improving safety on our roads.