SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Plessey Semiconductors said it has used its electric potential sensor technology to develop a system for detecting driver fatigue.
The auto sensor, dubbed EPIC (electric potential integrated circuit] is expected to be featured during by Plessey during the Electronica exhibition in Munich, Germany, from Nov. 13 to 16.
EPIC sensor technology has been licensed for commercialization by Plessey from the University of Sussex. It works by measuring changes in an electric field in a way similar to a magnetometer. Similarly, the human body and its motions affect the electrical field. The technology can be used to detect heart beats and other nerve and muscle activity with or without dry contact.
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The EPIC sensor utilizes capacitive coupling and take an ECG through normal clothing or seat cover fabric.
Plessey (Plymouth, England) said it has used the technology to monitor heart rate variability from which it is possible to tell whether a driver is becoming sleepy. The company recommends an array of sensors built into a seat back. The optimal sensing location can then be chosen, regardless of the driver's height and build. Movement noise is minimized by placing the sensors away from the shoulders on the lower part of the seat back.
Evaluation kits are now available for car manufacturers and suppliers. The kits contain a seat pad with a six-sensor array on the seat back and a ground plane on the base. The kit also includes an interface box with a USB output to display and recording software.
Plessey's said its own tests show that more than 95 percent of heart beat peaks were detected during a 10-minute trial based on a variety of driving conditions.
Question is.... how will it be used and by whom? If it's just to alert the driver that they should take a rest, that's fine... but if it's going to be used to spy on people who depend on driving as a livelihood, that's a little creepy.
As always it is the human-modulated social questions that are hardest to deal with.
I suspect that car makers might be happy to design such systems into drivers seats and offer them as an optional safety feature that triggers an alarm.