Panasonic develops drowsiness detection technology

Drowsiness detection has already made its way into series production cars – the Volkswagen Passat and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, to name but two. Going a step further, Japanese electronics maker Panasonic has announced that it has developed drowsiness control technology by detecting and predicting a given driver’s level of drowsiness.

Panasonic’s latest setup claims to be subtle, detecting shallow drowsiness which the driver himself or herself is unaware of by non-contact measurement of movements such as blinking features and facial expressions, for example. It also compiles in-vehicle data to predict transitions in the driver’s level of drowsiness, as well as monitoring the driver’s level of thermal sensation.

The aforementioned biological signals were compiled and analysed during joint research with the Ohara Memorial Institute for Science of Labour in Japan. Additionally, joint research with Chiba University revealed that heat loss from a person’s body correlated with his or her drowsiness after a certain time has elapsed, regardless of the amount of clothing worn.

To that end, a person’s bodily heat loss can be detected and measured by Panasonic’s infrared array sensor, Grid-Eye. Ambient light has been taken into account as well. The company has also identified the effect elapsed time and surrounding brightness has on a person’s level of drowsiness.

The solution, then, is to maintain a comfortable temperature for the driver, along with manipulating the ambient lighting of the driver’s surroundings in order to combat drowsiness. When the driver’s level of drowsiness is eventually detected as high, an audible alert or command will be played to tell the driver to take a break.

Operational examples of the drowsiness control technology will be “available from October” according to the company, though it did not elaborate what form or vehicle it will be available in.

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