LONDON (TIP): The dangers of falling asleep while driving may soon become a thing of the past, thanks to new smart car seats which can detect when a driver is beginning to nod off and alert them. The car seats which warn drivers if they start to fall asleep at the wheel are being developed by researchers at the Nottingham Trent University, UK.

Professor Tilak Dias and William Hurley of the university’s Advanced Textile Research Group will be working with company Plessey on a feasibility study to investigate how to integrate an Electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor system directly into the fabric of car seats in an effort to save lives. Researchers aim to embed a fabric based sensor system within the seat which can detect the heart signals that indicate a driver is losing alertness. The data would be used to send a warning to the driver to pull over.

Should the warning be ignored, the vehicle could engage systems such as active cruise control or lane departure technology to prevent accidents. The information could also be sent over a wireless network to a control centre to take further action. “Plessey has already demonstrated that cardiac signals can be measured unobtrusively using capacitive sensors mounted within the driver’s seat; the requirement now is to improve the consistency and reliability of the data so that it can be used for the intended purpose,” Dias said.

“This requires a novel approach to the design of the electrodes, and the University’s knitted conductive textile technology offers the potential to produce robust electrodes that can be easily incorporated into automotive seats,” said Dias.

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