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Car seats which detect when drivers are falling asleep

Car seats which warn drivers if they start to fall asleep at the wheel are being developed as part of a study by Nottingham Trent University researchers.

Car seats which warn drivers if they start to fall asleep at the wheel are being developed as part of a study by Nottingham Trent University researchers.

Professor Tilak Dias and William Hurley of the University's Advanced Textile Research Group will be working with company Plessey on a feasibility study to investigate how to integrate an Electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor system directly into the fabric of car seats in an effort to save lives. It is being funded by the UK's innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board.

With driver fatigue a contributory factor in one in five motorway accidents *, the aim is to embed a fabric based sensor system within the seat which can detect the heart signals that indicate a driver is losing alertness. The data would be used to send a warning to the driver to pull over. Should the warning be ignored, the vehicle could engage systems such as active cruise control or lane departure technology to prevent accidents. The information could also be sent over a wireless network to a control centre to take further action.

Professor Dias said: "Plessey has already demonstrated that cardiac signals can be measured unobtrusively using capacitive sensors mounted within the driver's seat; the requirement now is to improve the consistency and reliability of the data so that it can be used for the intended purpose. This requires a novel approach to the design of the electrodes, and Nottingham Trent University’s knitted conductive textile technology offers the potential to produce robust electrodes that can be easily incorporated into automotive seats."

The Technology Strategy Board has committed £88,318 to the study as part of its £1.1m investment in feasibility studies to help the development of internet sensors which allow all kinds of machines and appliances to communicate and co-ordinate with each other through an information network.

The Nottingham Trent University and Plessey project was one of 11 to receive funding through the scheme to develop its concept. If successful, the aim is to develop the seats initially targeted at lorry drivers but also at the luxury car market.

Steve Cliffe, Business Development Director of Plessey, said: "We are extremely excited to be working with Nottingham Trent University on this Technology Strategy Board-funded programme. For the first time it will be possible to reliably and robustly extract electrophysiology signals using Plessey EPIC (Electric Potential Integrated Circuit) sensors in an automotive environment without direct contact with the body."

* Fatigue and Road Safety: A Critical Analysis of Recent Evidence", Road Safety Web Publication No. 21, Department for Transport, 2011

  • Notes for editors

    Nottingham Trent University's Advanced Textiles Research Group The Advanced Textiles Research Group at Nottingham Trent University is led by Professor Tilak Dias. The focus of the group is on electronic textiles with the aim of developing a truly wearable computer. Located within the School of Art & Design, the Research Group forms strong cross-disciplinary links with colleagues in the artistic and fashion areas. More information is available on the University's website.

    Plessey Plessey is a leading expert in the development and manufacture of semiconductor products used in sensing, measurement and control applications. Plessey's products are found in a wide range of markets including communications, manufacturing, medical, defence and aerospace. Plessey designs products for high performance applications and its range of integrated products includes CMOS image sensors, low and mid-power LEDs, Hall Effect devices and its award-winning EPIC electric potential sensors. Using its understanding of electronics and expertise in micro-electronic product design and manufacture, Plessey is radically enhancing the human experience with micro-electronics solutions such that people achieve more than they thought possible. Plessey is a UK based manufacturer with offices around the US, Europe and Asia. For further information please visit the Plessey or send an email to enquiries.

    The Technology Strategy Board The Technology Strategy Board is the UK's innovation agency. Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy. For more information, please visit Innovateuk.

Car seats which detect when drivers are falling asleep

Published on 16 July 2014
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Art & Design

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