Warning System for Sleepy Drivers Introduced

A new lane recognition safety system and alarm device aimed at reducing the more than 56,000 automobile accidents caused by drowsy or inattentive drivers has been introduced by Odetics ITS (Anaheim, CA). Developed in conjunction with Europe's Daimler-Chrysler (Stuttgart, Germany), the Autovue system alerts drivers when an unintended lane change is about to occur, allowing them time to correct their error.

Autovue works by continually gathering visual data and combining it with the vehicle's speed. Through this process, the system is capable of recognizing when a vehicle begins to drift too close to the lane markings. When this occurs, the unit automatically emits a distinctive rumble strip sound, alerting the driver to make a correction. This particular alarm sound was chosen after thorough research proved it to be most effective for warning a driver without causing them to overreact. The system is small enough to be mounted to the windshield, dashboard, or overhead.

"Autovue is a breakthrough product for the automotive industry. In light of recent and past reports from the NHTSA on drowsy drivers, there is a huge need for this kind of safety system," said Francis Memole, VP of vehicle sensors for Odetics ITS. "What makes our product unique is that it not only notifies a driver that they have veered from their lane, it warns them when they are about to, which gives them time to react to a situation before they are in trouble."

According to a report issued June 3, 1999 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, as many as 56,000 crashes are caused annually by drowsy or fatigued drivers who unintentionally drive off the road. Of the reported drowsy driver crashes, 40,000 of them resulted in injuries and 1,550 resulted in death.

"Autovue was originally developed for use on commercial trucks. Truckers typically travel long distances and can become susceptible to drowsiness or fatigue. And when a commercial truck veers from its lane, the amount of damage can be tremendous," said Memole. Autovue was introduced in Europe at the Hanover Truck Show on one of Daimler-Chrysler's Actros trucks last year. The system is expected to be unveiled in North America this fall with availability on consumer automobiles by the year 2001.