We've all been there, you're pressing on, but you know you're dangerously close to falling asleep while behind the wheel. Rolling down the window, blaring the radio, and frequent shakes of the head just aren't doing it. Those jumping jacks you did at the rest stop a few miles back helped for a little while, but you can feel sleep creeping up on you quickly. Driving while drowsy is a big danger, and researchers from the University of Tokyo, Oita University, the Shimane Institute of Health Science have teamed up with Delta Tooling, to develop a seat that can detect a tired driver. Hiroshima-based Delta supplies dies for industrial presses and equipment to industry for the manufacture of products, mainly automotive seats.

The team first had to target what they were going to detect with the seat, so they set out to study the signs of sleep onset, paying particular attention to pulse and respiration. Once they determined what they were looking for, a sensing system was designed for integration into an automotive seat. In the seatback, sensors monitor the driver's pulse, while the bottom cushion has sensors that keep track of breathing. Testing in a variety of conditions was carried out, and the system is reportedly effective even through layers of thick clothing, such as winter coats. There have been drowsiness detection systems in the past, but this system requires no action from the driver, which is a new development. As long as there's a posterior in the seat, it's keeping vigil against the Sandman.

Now that the detection system has been dialed in, work can progress on just what to do with that information. There's currently no alarm tied to the sensors, but that's the obvious next step. Many safety ideas come and go, but we think this one, like ESC before it, has legs.

[Source: Pink Tentacle]