Ford Brazil’s Heavy Truck division has come up with a very novel solution to keeping long-haul drivers awake and aware of when their attention is waning – the Safe cap.
Driving a truck can be a monotonous and stressful occupation and one where you’re stuck behind the wheel of a vehicle, without physically moving for hour upon hour. For example, in Brazil alone, the average truck driver covers 10 000km a month and, according to the Brazilian National Transport Confederation, over 11% of drivers have had at least one collision in the past several years.
Looking at technological ways to improve truckers’ well-being is nothing new. Daimler Benz recently conducted a series of tests in the Arctic Circle examining how the use of light in cabins of latest generation trucks could help to ward off tiredness or increase alertness.
However, in countries like Brazil, most drivers are behind the wheel of a rig that is at least 14 years old, therefore they lack the finances to trade up to a modern vehicle or to retrofit a cabin with technologies such as cameras and sensors.
Enter the Safe cap. It looks just like something that would already be in a trucker’s wardrobe, but behind the peak and within the liner are sensors similar to those found in a smartphone that monitor the wearer’s head movements for signs of fatigue.
If it detects tiredness, the cap initially vibrates and then uses sounds and flashing lights if the movement persists.
Not to be disregarded as a gimmick, Ford spent eight months testing the device with a group of truckers in real world conditions and over a distance of 5000km. It also had to build a database of head movements associated with truck driving so that the cap can distinguish between movements related to a trucker’s occupation and those that don’t.
What’s more, rather than connect this piece of smart clothing to a smartphone or the internet to do the calculations regarding these movements, all the processing is self-contained within the cap itself.
“Ford is the first automotive company to think about creating a wearable device for drivers to use for the time when they are behind the wheel that can contribute to prevent accidents. This way, we are able to reinforce our commitment on bringing embedded technology not only for vehicles, but also through accessories that are capable of making the lives of drivers easier and the focus on safety as a priority in our technology investments,” said Lyle Watters, president of Ford South America.
However, the safe cap is still in its prototype stages; testing is ongoing and it is yet to be patented or certified. But when it’s ready Ford has made it clear that it would be happy to share the technology with other companies to take it into fully-fledged production. – AFP Relaxnews