Taking Control of the Wheel for Stressed and Exhausted Drivers

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Fancy a nap in your car instead of driving? Researchers are developing an innovative system that will be able to tell when you’re anxious, distracted or tired and take over for you.

There aren’t many drivers who can say they only get behind the wheel when they’re well-rested and relaxed. Most of us have found ourselves in situations where we’ve had to drive somewhere after an exhausting day at work or with a stressful problem on our minds. Such situations are responsible for around 20 % of serious road accidents in Europe.

A consortium of 31 European partners in the EU-funded ADASANDME project have been working on ways to make driving safer for all concerned. Coordinated by the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI), the project team is developing innovative advanced driver assistance systems that can detect if a driver is feeling anxious, distracted or tired. If the driver isn’t in a fit state to drive, control of the wheel is automatically transferred to the car for a safer and more comfortable journey.

To achieve its goal of enhanced driving safety, the project has adopted a holistic approach that combines automated driving with information on the driver’s state. This data is obtained through devices such as eye sensors, heart-rate monitors and drowsiness detectors. The aim is “to really make sure that the transition from the driver to the vehicle is done in a safe way,” says VTI’s Dr Anna Anund in a news item published in ‘The Telegraph’. When a driver’s state is taken into account, control can be taken away from “a driver who is under pressure of fatigue, stress, anxiety and so on,” according to Dr Anund.

Safety systems for all vehicle types

The project is studying seven use cases that cover a number of critical driving scenarios for cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles. The first, an attentive long-haul trucking system, will make it possible for truckers to spend some of their time resting and performing tasks other than driving. Three of the use cases concern cars. Monitoring systems will be used to reduce electric car driver anxiety by suggesting alternative routes and reducing speed and power consumption while guiding drivers to the closest available charging station. Driver state-based smooth and safe automation transitions will enable car drivers to rest when fatigued and take over once again in special situations such as road works. Non-reacting driver emergency manoeuvres will ensure car drivers’ safety when they’re distracted, for example by a phone call.

Two use cases focus on motorcycle safety. A rider monitoring system will warn motorbike riders when they need to take a break and inform them about nearby rest areas. In critical situations, such as riders becoming dizzy or losing consciousness, the system even goes into recovery mode, turning on hazard lights, automatically slowing down and helping riders to maintain stability while moving to the side of the road. For buses, passenger pick up and drop off automation will enhance the safety and comfort of both drivers and passengers.

The technology ADASANDME (Adaptive ADAS to support incapacitated drivers Mitigate Effectively risks through tailor made HMI under automation) is developing is aimed at bridging the gap between vehicle autonomy Level 3 (cars can perform driving tasks in predictable situations but the driver is still needed) and Level 4 (the vehicle can drive by itself, except in unpredictable situations).

For more information, please see: ADASANDME project website