Ford's Driver Alert system utilises advanced technology and sophisticated algorithms to analyse driver performance, issuing a warning if the driver shows either signs of drowsiness or erratic steering.
"Driver fatigue is a serious problem and one that can affect anyone," said Ford engineer Margareta Nieh, who helped develop Driver Alert. "When drivers become drowsy they tend to drift off line as they lose concentration and then make sudden corrective steering inputs. What we've developed is a Driver Alert system that picks up on these erratic driving movements by detecting sideways yaw."
The Drive Alert System features a forward facing camera mounted on the back of the rear view mirror, and connected to an onboard computer it can identify lane markings on both sides of the vehicle.
Although the camera is programmed to check for lane marking on both sides of the road, it can still function if markings on just one side are detected. The system can also be switched off via the instrument cluster.
When the vehicle is moving, the camera analyses the road ahead, predicting where the car should be positioned, taken the lane markings into consideration. It then measures where the vehicle actually is, and if the difference is significant enough, a warning alert is issued.
"Let's imagine the driver is tired, their concentration levels start to drop and the vehicle starts to drift from side-to-side," Nieh said. "The software will detect this change in the vehicle's behaviour, triggering a two-stage warning process."
Firstly, a text message and warning will appear in the instrument cluster for ten seconds with an audible chime. If the behaviour continues, a second warning will appear in the cluster, which can only be dismissed by the press of an OK button.
"If the driver fails to acknowledge the hard warning, the system can only be reset by stopping the car and opening the driver's door," Nieh said. "The system then recognises that perhaps you have changed drivers or that you have had a rest and can continue."
"The technology is very clever," Nieh said. "It's been programmed to recognise intentional lane changing manoeuvres so it won't issue a warning whenever you overtake, for example."
The Driver Alert technology is available as part of the optional Driver Assistance pack offered on the Ford Mondeo, S-MAX and Galaxy models and was recently introduced on the all new Ford Focus. The optional Driver Assistance pack for the Ford Focus costs £750 and also contains Active City Stop, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keeping Aid, Traffic Sign Recognition, Auto high beam and Blind Sport Information System (BLIS).
The most likely time for sleep related crashes are:
- On long journeys with monotonous roads, such as motorways
- Between 2am and 6am and between 2pm and 4pm (especially after eating)
- After having less sleep than normal
- If taking medicines that cause drowsiness
- On journeys home after night shifts