AUSTRALIAN DRIVER FATIGUE STUDY FUNDED BY RESEARCH COUNCIL GRANT
Compumedics and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) have been awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant to develop vehicle-based warning devices to counter the potentially fatal effect of driver fatigue.
The grant was announced today by the Federal Minister for Education, Science and Training, Dr Brendan Nelson at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.
Compumedics Executive Chairman, David Burton, a key speaker at today’s function said, “We have developed substantial expertise in the physiological indicators of sleep from analysing thousands of patient sleep studies over the past 14 years. This project aims to utilise that expertise to detect driver drowsiness early enough to prevent the often dire consequences of the condition.”
The Compumedics/UTS study will include investigation of the most effective ways to gather movement data associated with driving. The study team will evaluate combinations of sensors placed in locations of the vehicle that make contact with the driver, such as the seat, steering wheel, pedals and seat belt. Interpretation of the feedback from those sensors would be used to indicate whether driver vigilance had fallen below acceptable levels. A negative result would trigger an alarm or other form of safety intervention. Compumedics extensive expertise in monitoring brain activity will also be a key technology input into the project.
Dr Ashley Craig, Professor of Behavioral Sciences and Associate Dean Faculty of Science at UTS has welcomed the opportunity to work with Compumedics on such a worthwhile study. “Monitoring driver fatigue is an extremely important area of research given the extent of damage caused. It is estimated that driver fatigue costs society $2-3 billion a year. Compumedics’ internationally recognised expertise in the area of sleep diagnostics and health will be of significant benefit for this project and we are delighted to partner with them, ” he said.
Driver fatigue has been long identified as one of the major causes of serious road accidents. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that as many as 240,000 motor vehicle accidents per year can be attributed to driver fatigue. Up to 30% of the adult population are estimated to suffer from sleeping disorders, with many of these considered to be serious enough to impact the performance of activities requiring concentration, such as driving a motor vehicle.
Compumedics is a world leader in diagnostic equipment for sleep disorders. Driver fatigue measurement was an area identified for development in the prospectus for the company’s 2000 public listing. The US market for commercial vehicles alone is estimated to reach over $200 million by 2005.