With driving accidents being the third most common cause of death and disability worldwide, car manufacturers are constantly looking to new technologies that will help prevent as many accidents as possible. Now, a European project known as, HARKEN is aiming to develop new technology which will help prevent drowsy driving. Drowsy driving is often overlooked as a danger to motorists, in particular when compared to drunk driving and driving while under the influence of drugs. However, drowsy driving or driving while exhausted– which is often the case for truckers and those on road trips– causes drivers to be less aware of the road and thus, puts them at risk for accidents. Drowsy driving accounts for 8.3% of all traffic accidents.
HARKEN technology makes use of sensors in the seat belt and seat cover of the driver’s chair and monitors signs of fatigue. The system monitors for changes in breathing patterns and heart rate which are consistent with fatigue; this allows for drowsy driving to be detected before other obvious signs of exhaustion such as yawning and poor driving. The system is currently being tested with drivers in closed tracks, and the European Union is hopeful for the prospect of having a system such as HARKEN installed in its cars.