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Continental Developing Technology To Watch For Driver Distraction


Continental's infrared driver analyzer camera system

Continental's infrared driver analyzer camera system

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Every day in the United States, some 10 people are killed and 1,100 injured in crashes relating to distracted driving. While those are the official tallies released by the Department of Transportation, the actual number is likely much higher; after all, few drivers will admit that they didn’t see stopped traffic because they were texting.

Automotive technology supplier Continental wants to do something about that, so it’s developed new systems for its Driver Focus concept vehicle to combat distracted driving. Blending prototype and production-ready systems, the Driver Focus vehicle ultimately seeks to reduce human error, the root cause of some 80-percent of accidents.

Inside the Driver Focus concept, an infrared driver analyzer camera watches a driver’s facial movements for signs of fatigue or distraction. Closing eyelids will trigger an alert, as will looking away from the path of travel (at a cell phone, for example).

Should Continental’s system detect a potential problem, Halo steps in to intervene. Halo is a 360-degree optical guidance system that uses a light path to guide a driver’s eyes back to where they should be pointing.

Sometimes subtle just doesn’t work, which is why Continental’s system also takes advantage of more conventional technologies, such as lane departure warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) Takeover.

In the Driver Focus vehicle, LDW looks to minimize alerts to avoid further distraction, activating only when relevant to traffic flow. The warning delivered from the FCW system will vary depending upon where the driver is looking; if a crash is detected and the driver is looking away, a more urgent warning will be delivered.

While ACC systems are good at keeping a preset distance between vehicles, they’re not necessarily good at the type of heavy braking needed to avoid a collision. That’s where Continental’s ACC Takeover system comes in, as it will use Halo to guide a driver’s attention where it’s needed, allowing him to stop in time to avoid an accident.

Don’t look for any single vehicle to deploy Continental’s full suite of distracted driving prevention measures any time soon, but all will likely see adoption as the industry moves towards semi-autonomous driving. In the mean time, our best advice is this: if you’re driving, put away the cell phone. No text is worth you life, or the life of someone else.
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