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Denso uses A/C to alert drowsy drivers

By Steve Schaeber, MACS Technical Editor

The basic technology has been around for a while now, going back at least 10 years on Toyota and some luxury car brands such as Mercedes, Lexus and Volvo, but this new concept by Denso may become more commonplace if it proves to be useful in helping reduce accidents due to driver fatigue. Denso’s approach is a bit different than some others though, as this time they look to leverage their knowledge and experience in HVAC technology to help keep drivers alert and safe behind the wheel.

There’s no official name for the system yet (it’s currently still in the development stage), but it’s going to combine their already available DSM (Driver Status Monitor) system with the vehicle’s air conditioner. The basic idea is to send a blast of cold air towards the driver if the DSM detects fatigue, in an attempt to “wake them up” and keep their eyes on the road, while also suggesting it may be time to pull over for a break. Details on system operation have not yet been disclosed, but we can imagine the driver getting a few short blasts of cold air in the face if the system should detect erratic steering wheel movements, the car drifting out of the lane, or the driver’s eyes closing for long periods of time.

Denso’s current DSM system can monitor a driver’s face angle, eyelid closure, drowsiness level and head position using a vision system and image processing technology. If the system detects that a driver is getting tired and sleepy, it displays a warning message along with an audible chime. In the 2016 Lexus LS460 it’s called the Driver Monitor System (aka Driver Attention Monitor), part of their $6,500 Advanced Pre-Collision System Package, which not only includes the DMS, but also Lane Keep Assist, Pre-Collision System and all-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. DMS is designed to alert the driver if a potential hazard is detected and the driver’s eyes are closed or face appears to be turned away. It can also operate the pre-collision braking system.

(Figure 1) 12_TV_ATTENTION-ASSIST_@2x (mercedes dash icon 082616)

Daimler introduced similar technology with Attention Assist in their 2010 E-class sedans. The driver information center displays the message, “Attention Assist: Drowsiness Detected” along with a coffee cup icon. Rather than use a camera system to monitor the driver’s face, Mercedes monitors position changes in the steering angle sensor among others to detect erratic inputs, indicating driver fatigue.

(Figure 2) img24c27b7106f81468c0a801e70040c061_1_--_--_VOICEpnghigh (volvo coffee cup icon 082616)

Volvo’s dashboard icon depicts a steamy cup of coffee, indicating it’s time to take a break. The Volvo S80 has had the DAC (Driver Alert Control) System since the 2009 model year.

(Figure 3) imged617e4e6bdea1d2c0a801e70114bc77_1_--_--_VOICEpnghigh (volvo)

The Driver Alert Control system used in the 2015 Volvo V40 can detect slowly deteriorating driving patterns. Intended to be used primarily on major roads, its onboard cameras supplied by Delphi detect lane markings painted on the highway and compare them with how the driver is controlling the steering wheel.

(Figure 4) Driver-Status-Monitor-99 (Denso)

Denso’s Driver Status Monitor is mounted just above the steering wheel (atop the steering column) on some Toyota and Lexus vehicles. It uses a camera with near infrared LEDs to monitor the driver’s face and integrates the ECU inside the sensor housing.

Even the most seasoned professional drivers are not immune to tiredness or fatigue, and most of us know that feeling you get after being behind the wheel for a long period of time. Today we’re seeing incredible technological change and advancement in vehicle safety systems that were unheard of even a decade ago, and I’m looking forward to see how far this technology can go!

Want to see a video of how Denso’s Driver Status Monitor works? Click this link to see Brandy Cooper from Denso Manufacturing in Athens, Tennessee as she demonstrates how the system sees your face behind the wheel.

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