Volkswagen provides a preview of a new driver assistance system

Volkswagen provides a preview of a new driver assistance system  
Filed under:
Technology, Volkswagen
on 09/04/2007

Source: Volkswagen

In the not too distant future, this device will have the size of a one cent piece and be an integral, virtually invisible part of the vehicle which will assist future generations of car drivers. A small lens forms part of a prototype driver assistance system which, in future, will inform a driver at an early state when he is at risk of suffering the feared microsleep. But we are not quite there yet. Until 3rd October, a precursor of this Volkswagen system will be on show at the German Museum of Hygiene in Dresden, where a special exhibition on the subject of "Sleep and Dreaming" provides some of the latest information on the subject of microsleep. Several years ago, Volkswagen Group Research equipped research vehicles with a system designed to reduce microsleep. This is because a study by the Association of German Insurance Industries (GdV) has identified microsleep as the principal cause of 24% of all fatal motorway accidents.

Until recently, new developments of intelligent driver assistance systems concentrated on the actual vehicle and the vehicle environment. As a result, systems such as automatic distance control (ACC), the Front Scan environmental observation system and the Side Scan lane control system were introduced with the new Touareg model in the Spring thus supporting the driver in the task of driving. But with regard to "microsleep", the driver himself is now the focus of all investigations, as the technical facilities of the newly developed assistant are designed to detect whether the driver of a vehicle is fully awake or tired. Information about the extent of tiredness is derived from the flutter frequency of the eyelid.

At the beginning of this comprehensive research project, a series of driving simulations were performed both at Wolfsburg and at the Centre for Man-and-Machine Systems of the TU Berlin. During these tests, the participants drove along monotonous roads, or along roads with many S-bends, at different times of the day and night, until they fell asleep. While they were at the wheel, driving parameters, head movements, eyelid flutter and changes in mimic parameters were recorded and then analysed to determine whether they could be used to forecast the driver state. The results of these empirical investigations showed that the parameters describing the flutter of the eyelids are the most suitable for recognising the risk of a driver going to sleep.

As research progressed, it became possible to specify and develop a camera-based sensor that made it possible to measure the characteristic flutter of the eyelids of a driver. To be acceptable for automotive use, all components of such a camera system need to be reduced in size so as to take up as little as possible of the limited space available in the vehicle. It must be able to observe tall and short drivers, both male and female, function equally well under all conditions of illumination, and it must be resistant to vehicle vibration and major temperature changes, just to mention a few of the specific vehicle requirements.

Recognition that a driver is getting tired and lacking in attention must then lead to suitable countermeasures and supportive action. For this reason, several different strategies are being investigated at present to provide the driver with helpful and recognisable feedback without alarming him. In addition, investigations are in progress to determine whether the driver observation system can be coupled with other driver assistance systems such as distance and lane control systems in order to provide him with support that is consistent with the current demand situation. We are therefore getting closer to the position where a vehicle offers functions that monitor the driver as a co-driver would to ensure he drives under optimum conditions.

Dr. Katharina Seifert, Head of Projects of Volkswagen Group Research emphasises: "The development of this kind of driver assistance system is an important area of research for us. As a matter of principle, we will never relieve the driver of his responsibility. The system cannot guarantee that the risk of the driver going to sleep will disappear. However, it can, and will meaningfully support and warn the driver when his alertness is diminished. He can then decide for himself whether he should stop the vehicle and take a break".

Until 3rd October, the German Museum of Hygiene in Dresden is showing some 300 different, internationally donated exhibits over an area of some 800m square metres. The exhibition not only contains scientific and cultural historical exhibits, but also contemporary works of art. The work of organising the exhibition was led by its Curator, Dr. Michael Dorrmann, and was carried out in collaboration with the Wellcome Collection London, where the collection will be shown from 30th November 2007 to March 2008 in the British Capital. You will find more information on the special "Sleep and Dreaming" exhibition under "Schlaf und Traum" at

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