Scientists have developed a new smartphone app that can alert a car driver if they are sleepy, an advance that may help avoid fatal accidents caused by fatigue driving. The new approach adopts a smartphone’s real-time video to track and analyse the facial features of a driver, in particular, the changes in his eyelids and head position, which are prominent fatigue symptoms.
With the app installed in a smartphone, a driver just has to put it near the steering wheel with the front camera facing him in his normal driving position. When the camera captures features like drooping eyelids, drowsiness or even nodding off, an alarm is automatically set off. To ensure that the driver is awakened, the driver has to turn off the alarm either by voice or by hand.
The method, developed by Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) in China, requires only a smartphone without any additional devices or sensors. It is cost-effective, simple to operate, portable, detects accurately, highly reliable, and supports online system updates.
As the system can activate the rear camera of the smartphone, it can also be utilised as a normal driving recording system, as used by many drivers now. The results of fatigue driving should not be underestimated, said Professor Cheung Yiu-ming from HKBU.
The new system is suitable for all drivers, but especially for professional drivers and machinery workers who have long working hours. Yiu-ming added that the system may also interest corporations with a vehicle fleet, or insurance companies.
Fatigue-driving detection systems are currently installed only in a few luxury models offered by car manufacturers. Those systems require additional devices and sensors installed in a vehicle, making them non-portable, expensive and difficult to fit system updates, thus not beneficial to general drivers.