#45: Simple driver monitoring systems

The oddly-named “More Than” insurance company has done some ‘research’ in which they claim that one in five drivers admit to concentrating behind the wheel less than 75% of the time (mostly people answering this questionnaire said they thought about sex; hardly a surprising result but not very reassuring when you are nose-to-tail at 70mph).

Other studies have shown that driving skills are at their best when in a ‘flow-state’, so it’s not obvious that hypervigilance avoids accidents anyway.

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Having said that, driving with your hands on the wheel at the ten-to-two position is apparently reliably indicative of safe, alert driving.

Today’s invention is therefore a simple alert message which is issued when the contact pattern of the hands on the steering wheel differs from the correct one for more than a second or two -a ‘dead-man’s handle’ for the modern era. This could be achieved by simple template matching of a pattern on a touchpad embedded in the wheel surface with one stored by the driver on taking possession of the vehicle. It would still allow the occasional sleight of hand required for a rapid three-point turn.

A more elaborate system could detect whether a driver was failing to undertake the recommended ‘mirror-signal-manoeuvre’ procedure. A face detecting camera could assess the orientation of the driver’s head in relation to the mirror and then confirm that the indicator was in operation before the wheel was turned. If the driver was persistently not undertaking the sequence safely, it might suggest that more training was required or that the driver was drunk (see also this article).

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