Wake-up call for drivers

VICTORIA (CUP) — Falling asleep at the wheel may be a thing of the past, thanks to a team of electrical engineering students from the University of Victoria.
The Sleep Surveillance System, developed by Ben Widsten, Tiange Wang, Jordana Mah and Julie Lan for their fourth-year project, sounds an alarm when the driver of a car starts to fall asleep.
A webcam constantly takes pictures of the driver’s eyes to determine if they are open or closed.
“The webcam is like a binary number,” said Wang. “We use pattern recognition to compare the images.”
A computer algorithm interprets the data from the webcam and if the driver’s eyes are shut for more than 1.5 seconds, an alarm sounds to wake up the driver.
The 1.5-second threshold is just long enough to prevent the alarm from going off when the driver is blinking, said Wang.
Widsten came up with the idea for the alarm during his tough morning commutes while on a co-op term in Alberta. “He’d drink lots of coffee while he was driving, and it didn’t always work,” explained Wang. “He’d fall asleep sometimes.”
The technology, which took about three months to develop, only costs about $100 to produce.
While the alarm has the potential to save lives, it’s possible that more people may drive tired if they have the added comfort of an alarm. But Widsten says that’s not the product’s aim.
“It’s not to extend your driving,” he said. “It’s to tell you when to take a rest.”


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