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Driving miss daisy - reducing traffic accidents

An Israeli company has created a new device which may soon help reduce the number of traffic accidents that are related to driver's lack of attentiveness and dozing. The company has already demonstrated the basic technology and received financial support from both General Motors and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Monitoring your driving

Almost a quarter of all traffic accidents are caused by drivers being inattentive or dozing. Through the years, safety engineers have tried to create various devices that would alert the driver whenever his attention to the road decreases. Until now most of these devices have tried to measure the drivers attention directly by focusing on their eye movement and blinking rate, but to date all of these methods have been largely unsuccessful (turning your head or even wearing sunglasses can cause problems).

Five years ago Dr. Dan Omry, an Israeli scientist and entrepreneur, decided to tackle the problem from a different angle and founded a small company named Sphericon to try to solve the driver attentiveness issue. Towards that goal Dr. Omry created DAISY, an acronym for Driver Attentiveness Indication System.

The driver's ongoing task is to maintain the vehicle in the lane: a task hindered by all the external forces that impinge on the vehicle such as imperfections of road surface, wind gusts, and imbalances in the vehicle itself. The crucial issue is to separate what the driver does from the external disturbances. And this is exactly what Dr. Omry and his team at Sphericon set out to do when they created DAISY. They have produced a "smart" DSP (digital signal processing) algorithm to measure simultaneously what the steering wheel does and what the road wheels do, from which the contribution of both can be inferred. Continuous weighing of driver action against the action of the external disturbances provides a good measure of driver alertness and the elimination of frequent false alarms.

Dr. Omry believes that that there is a time period of 10 to 20 minutes when the attentiveness of the driver slowly deteriorates. DAISYs intervention during this time frame can dramatically reduce the number of traffic accidents caused by lack of attention and the dozing of the driver. Using sounds, lights and even possibly a device which will rapidly vibrates the driver's chair, DAISY will let him know that he should pay more attention to the road.

Sphericon has already demonstrated its technology's capability and has generated much interest from the automotive industry. It has obtained financial support from General Motors, from the U.S. National Academies and from the Office of the Chief Scientist of the Israel Ministry of Industry and Trade, and is among only a few non-American companies ever to get a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The company completed its technology trials last year and is currently developing a working prototype, which will be available for on-vehicle testing later this year. The current projection of the company is that it will be able to produce the final version within approximately two years to be fitted on the steering system when the car is being factory assembled and make it available to car manufacturers at a reasonable cost.

Iddo Genuth

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