Ever wished you had a device to stop you nodding off behind the wheel?
Well, that dream could become a mass-produced reality within years. It’s all thanks to a new British-developed vibrating steering wheel.
ARM, the Cambridge-based microchip giant, says its technology could also have the ability to focus our all-round concentration behind the wheel.
Why’s concentration so key to safe driving?
The smart wheel’s inventors believe a lack of attention is behind nearly every road accident.
More people aged between 15 and 29 die from car collisions than any other cause.
So there’s no greater incentive needed for young drivers to sharpen up their concentration.
Still not convinced? The safe driving charity, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has put the dangers of concentration lapses into context.
You’ll travel a whooping 90ft if you avert your eyes from the road ahead for just a couple of seconds when travelling 30mph, the IAM calculated. That’s 90ft travelling effectively blind.
Latest stats suggest that UK driving concentration problems are getting worse.
There’s been a recent 4% increase in serious injuries and road fatalities. This hike hasn’t helped by so many tech products vying for our in-car attention nowadays.
Some road experts point the finger at this increasing dependence upon gadgets – such as hands-free phones and GPS systems.
But the smart wheel will be one device that actually aids our concentration, according to ARM.
So how does the smart wheel work?
An ARM camera monitors motorists’ eyes for signs of concentration lapses, including dozing off.
It does this by scanning a motorist’s eyes to check “blink rates” for indications of tiredness.
If such lapses are detected, the network will then send pulses vibrating through the steering wheel to warn the motorist. It can even sound an alarm.
What the experts say
ARM’s vice-president Richard York says in-car sensors are nothing new and his company’s latest innovation is merely a logical progression.
Carmakers, he said, already employ them to:
– stop front-end collisions
– detect gaps between vehicles
– prevent cars from drifting outside their lanes
How to stay focused
The smart wheel may be some years away, but there are plenty of things you can do to brush up on your concentration powers before then. They include:
– not setting the air-con too high so you drift off to sleep
– focus purely on the road ahead rather than anything peripheral, such as unruly children in the back seat
– avoid really loud music
– lock away your mobile phones and other electronic gadgets in the glove compartment to avoid temptation
– tune your car radio to the station you wish to listen to or select your CDs before your journey
– try to not eat while driving
As the IAM says, it’s easy for us to fool ourselves that we can safely multi-task when behind the wheel – but the reality is far from true.