With thousands of accidents caused every year by tired drivers falling asleep at the wheel, Ford's new driver alert safety system could prove to be a genuine life-saver.
Ford's driver alert uses advanced technology and sophisticated algorithms to analyse driver performance and issues a warning if the driver shows signs of drowsiness or erratic steering.
"Driver fatigue is a serious problem and one that can affect anyone," says Ford engineer Margareta Nieh, who helped develop driver alert and is an expert on drowsy driver behaviour.
"When drivers become drowsy, they tends to drift off line as they lose concentration and then make sudden corrective steering inputs. What we've developed is a driver alert system that picks up on these erratic driving movements by detecting sideways yaw."
The system comprises a small forward-facing camera connected to an on-board computer. The camera is mounted on the back of the rear-view mirror and is trained to identify lane markings on both sides of the vehicle.
When the vehicle is on the move, the computer looks at the road ahead and predicts where the car should be positioned relative to the lane markings. It then measures where the vehicle actually is and, if the difference is significant, the system issues a warning.