Scientists have developed the latest version of a driving assistance system which controls the driver's attention level and helps to avoid accidents caused by drowsiness or distractions at the wheel.
The aim of this system is to supervise and control the driver's attention level in order to detect possible distractions or signs related to drowsiness. "The information comes to the system through a video camera, located on the dashboard of the car, and measures eye blinking speed, its degree of openness or where the driver is looking in order to detect potentially dangerous situations," states professor José María Armingol, who coordinates this research along with Arturo de la Escalera from the Department of Systems Engineering and Automation of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M).
Professor Armingol adds, "If the system detects that the driver is getting drowsy or that he or she is distracted from the road, the driver is warned by an audible signal to alert him or her to the dangerous situation."
This Advanced Driving Alert System (ADAS) can be applied to practically any type of driver. "It would be logical to start with drivers who spend a lot of time at the wheel, such as truck drivers or bus drivers and later refine the system to apply it to all types of drivers," says Arturo de la Escalera. Among the possible improvements to the system is that is registers and evaluates other types of gestures, such as a drooping head or the number of yawns, "says Marco Javier Flores, another of the authors of the research study. The results of the study have been published recently in the digital version of the Journal of Intelligent and Robotics System.
A more and more "intelligent" vehicle
This new type of electronic co-pilot is found in the IVVI (Intelligent Vehicle based on Visual Information) a real car which has become a platform for research and experimentation for professors and students at the University. The aim of researchers developing this "intelligent vehicle" at the Intelligent Systems Laboratory at the UC3M is to be able to capture and interpret all of the information on the road when we drive. "For example," continues Professor Armingol," we have developed a system which detects and classifies the lines on the road to assess the direction the vehicle is headed and thus avoid going off the road."
The cameras incorporated into the car send the information to the computers inside the car which analyze the images and also allow the detection of people or obstacles on the road. The apparatus not only detects pedestrians, but also analyses their activity and movement in order to determine conflictive ones. The challenge: avoid hitting pedestrians.
Another module of the IVVI integrates a system of traffic sign recognition, which could also contribute to improving the state of the roads. This invention detects danger and prohibition signs automatically according to their shape and colour through search algorithms. The researchers say that there is a wide range of applications once the system is designed, such as the automatic inspection of traffic signs, regarding colour, shape, position and size. The aim is to improve maximum reliability so that this information can help the driver to be alerted to possible dangers. This is a technological spy with a purpose in the lens of its cameras: to save lives at the wheel.
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