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Ana Ollo Hualde
Nafarroako Unibertsitate Publikoa
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aollo@unavarra.es
(+34) 948 169033
Nafarroako Unibertsitate Publikoa

2004/11/29

Systems for prevention of drowsiness at the wheel

The device, which analyses the brain waves of the driver, has been designed by the students at the Public University of Navarre and presented at the XVIII Technical Seminar on Automotion.

A system to prevent somnolence would be of great advantage for professional drivers, who spend many hours behind the steering wheel of their vehicle. It is estimate that sleepiness causes 1% of accidents.

The system was presented at the XVIII Technical Seminar on Automotion. This year’s edition concentrated on “Safety in the automobile”.

The device, based on the analysis of brain waves, has been designed by six students at the Navarre University.

Analysis of waves in a PDA

The system thought up students at the Navarre Public University analyses the brain waves of the driver. This involves identifying the kinds of waves registered and if they are anomalous – indicating that they are falling asleep -, by a device which warns before an accident happens.

By means of magnetic field sensors located on the cranium, the device transmits data to a PDA – a small, pocket computer – which analyses the kinds of waves registered and acts in consequence. The sensors are located in a cap which maintains a certain pressure on the skull and which has a small device at the back which receives information from the sensors and directs them to the PDA. The connection between both is by radio-frequency as employing wires might be dangerous in case of an accident.

Once the data has been received, the PDA analyses the brain waves to see if they are normal or, on the contrary, if the driver is falling asleep. Then, in the latter case, other devices are triggered, still in the development stage, the aim of which will be to awaken and warn the driver or divert the vehicle from a possible accident.

Joint work with neurologists

For the design and development of this project, the Industrial Engineering faculty students were aided by neurologists at the Navarre University Hospital and were thus guided to the study of brain waves. In this way, five types of brain waves, according to their amplitude and frequency, have been described. As a person falls asleep, the amplitude of the waves increases and their frequency diminishes and, so, the types can be classified. A person is deemed in a state of somnolence if they are in the transition phase between alpha waves and theta waves. This is when the device is triggered into operation.

The authors of the project estimate that it the device would cost 4,500 euro, currently a very expensive item. For a private car it would be excessive but it would not be so for a professional driver – compared to what a bus or lorry costs. In this sense, the invention is aimed at this type of driver.

In the market there are other systems directed at detecting somnolence based on the analysis of the eye movements of the driver, by means of cameras, and which registers and activates according to rapid or confused blinking and the head nodding. Unlike these, the invention developed by the students at the Navarre Industrial Engineering Faculty has the advantage of detecting sleepiness prior to presenting these symptoms such as eye movement or nodding of the head.

The sensors are on the market but they are currently very expensive.

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