THE EXPERIMENT: Researchers asked their subjects to deprive themselves of sleep, and then drive on a simulated highway while computers recorded the driver's behavior. The researchers found that being sleepy alters a driver's steering pattern. When tired, drivers quickly steer to the left and right in a wiggling pattern, rather than making smooth adjustments to maintain a straight course.
WAKE UP! STOP THE CAR! The researchers are developing a system to detect erratic or hazardous steering behavior, which should be available in about two years. During the experiment, their system successfully detected driver sleepiness with better than ninety percent accuracy. They may use audio alarms, visual signals, or a combination to grab the attention of a weary driver.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.