There used to be a joke in Florida that if the car in front of you didn’t move when the light turned green, you didn’t know if the driver was dead or just asleep. While this rather lame attempt at humour was a commentary on the number of retirees living in the sunshine state, snoozing drivers is a very real world problem. If fact, according to Volvo & NHTSA there are about 100,000 accidents caused by driver fatigue in the US alone each year.
Adding to a growing number of safety design firsts, Volvo is introducing it’s revolutionary Driver Alert Control on several 2008 models. Rather than actually monitoring the driver, the system watches for erratic driving behaviour such as lane wandering. DAC uses a camera mounted between the rear view mirror and the windshield that measures the distance between the car and road markings. Using these measurements, the system can tell when the car is being driven in an uncontrolled manner. It then warns the driver to smarten up though a combination of auditory and visual warnings.
The system also makes a Lane Departure Warning system possible that alerts the driver of possible unintended lane changes. The LDW system also works with a camera to monitor the vehicle’s position between lane markings. How does the system know that a lane change was intended? Quite simple really, the driver used a turn signal. This system might actually have the spin off effect of teaching drivers to use their signals so they don’t hear a warning.
The downside to all this techie stuff is that it still relies on cameras, meaning that if there are no road markings or the weather affects the camera’s view the system doesn’t work. This means that in inclement weather or on unmarked rural roads the system is just along for the ride.
All the technical details follow in the Volvo press release