Frequently Asked Questions

How does the Drowsy Driver system work?

The patented Drowsy Driver system senses motions in the steering column that drivers make naturally. When a driver is rested and alert, there is a certain pattern of steering wheel motions that is detected (the baseline). When a driver is drowsy or distracted, the steering wheel motion is different from the baseline.

Lane deviation detection systems are showing up on many makes and models of new cars. Why isn’t the Drowsy Driver system?

Because the Drowsy Driver system is newer than the lane deviation systems, it has not had the testing and development of other systems. The WSU team us developing a user interface so that the steering wheel signal can be translated into meaningful information that the driver can act upon. When the interface is functional, testing will begin in actual vehicles.

How is the Drowsy Driver System different than a lane deviation detection system?

First, the Drowsy Driver system depends only on steering wheel movement, not the position of the vehicle. Second, lane deviation systems depend on cameras to show where in a lane the vehicle is.

Why is steering wheel motion a better detection method than lane position?

Steering wheel motion deviates from a baseline as a driver becomes fatigued, and that deviation is discernable via signal processing algorithms. Lane deviation depends on camera identification of lane boundaries, so in low light or poor weather conditions, the cameras may not detect lane boundaries accurately if at all.

Why does a driver, or the industry, need more than a lane deviation detection system?

The Drowsy Driver system senses the degree of drowsiness a driver is experiencing and can be calibrated to signal a driver to take corrective measures (e.g., a nap or cup of coffee) while there is still time to counteract the effects of drowsiness. Lane deviation detection signals a driver that he or she has encroached or violated a lane boundary, but that signal may come after a driver has already fallen asleep. That is too late to correct the situation without sleep.


Technical Info

The Drowsy Driver system works because of the following:

  • Detects driver fatigue as it increases in a driver.
  • Motion detection systems already exist on most newer cars and trucks so that no retrofitting of vehicles is needed.
  • Steering wheel motion will be translated to a fatigue index that the dri ver will see as a warning light once he/she becomes fatigued.
  • Sophisticated signal processing software distinguishes steering wheel motion from road- induced motion and correlates to driver fatigue levels.
  • Intervention is signaled when a driver is fatigued as detected in steering wheel mot ion that differs from a baseline.