Enter New Safety System from Volvo: Driver Alert
GÖTEBORG, Sweden (November 30, 2005) – Volvo Car Corporation is taking a decisive new step toward "Active Safety" (helping drivers avoid vehicle collisions) with its new Volvo Driver Alert system. The technology is designed to monitor a vehicle’s progress on the road and alert the driver if it detects signs of fatigue or distraction. The system does not take control of the vehicle. The system helps drivers make the right decision.
Volvo Cars intends to patent the Driver Alert technology, and make the system available in Volvo vehicles within two years.
Driver fatigue is a major traffic safety problem. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 100,000 collisions are caused every year on U.S. highways by drivers who fall asleep. Of that number, fifteen hundred of the accidents result in fatalities and a further 71,000 lead to physical injuries.
Based on the statistics from NHTSA, the company’s own research and other sources, Volvo Cars recognized a need for the Driver Alert system. The company’s goal was to ensure the system would only activate where the risk of falling asleep is the greatest and where a collision would have severe consequences. For example, a straight, smooth road has the potential to lull a driver into a relaxed state while traveling at a high speed. The system is activated at speeds above 40 mph and remains active until speeds fall below approximately 37 mph.
Registers what’s happening on the road
Driver Alert monitors the vehicle’s movement to determine if the vehicle is being driven in a controlled way. This method is unique among vehicle manufacturers and it is designed to be reliable in a variety of circumstances.
“We have chosen to monitor the vehicle’s progress on the road instead of steering wheel input or the driver’s eye movements,” explains Dr Wolfgang Birk, project manager for Driver Alert at Volvo Cars. “This gives us a more reliable indication if something is likely to go wrong, allowing the system time to alert the driver before it is too late. We do not monitor human behavior – which varies from one person to another – but instead the system monitors the effect of that behavior. That is why there is less of a risk for false alarms.”
The system also warns if the driver loses concentration for a reason other than fatigue. The system can detect if the driver is focusing too much on the navigation or audio systems or children in the vehicle, issuing an audible and visual alert before control is lost.
Text messages, audible warnings and star ratings
Technically, Driver Alert consists of a camera, a number of sensors and a processor. The camera, which is installed between the windscreen and the rear-view mirror, continuously measures the distance between the vehicle and the markings on the surface of the road. The sensors register the vehicle movements while the processor stores the information and calculates whether the driver is at risk. If the risk is assessed as high, the driver is alerted via an audible signal and a text message appears in the vehicle’s information display.
What’s more, the driver can retrieve a safety rating about their driving style, based on consistency of performance. Included in the vehicle’s trip computer, a display will provide the driver a rating, based on five stars. The less consistent the driving, the fewer stars illuminate.
“Driver Alert should not be confused with a system that alerts the driver if a lane marker is breached without activating a turn signal,” says Birk. Driver Alert monitors the way the vehicle is being driven and alerts the driver to their actions, rather than the vehicle’s position relative to a lane marker. In fact, Driver Alert will respond without the vehicle even crossing a lane marker.
Birk explains that Driver Alert has been tested both in vehicles and in simulators, with excellent results and high dependability. “During our tests, the system never once missed a driver who was falling asleep at the wheel,” says Birk. “Nonetheless, we will continue to test and fine-tune the system until Driver Alert is offered to Volvo customers. We expect it to be available within two years.”
Volvo has been building cars with Safety in mind for over 75 years. The current 2006 model line-up of Volvo Cars includes: the award-winning new S40 and its wagon counterpart the all-new V50; the award-winning XC90; the sporty S60 sedan – including the award-winning performance sedan – S60 R and the performance wagon version – V70 R; the S80 luxury sedan; the versatile V70 wagon and rugged XC70 (Cross Country). In addition, a new Volvo C70 convertible, with a retractable hardtop, will be available in the spring of '06.
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