According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year, which results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. And that’s an extremely conservative estimate, because it’s hard to ascertain whether accidents are due to drowsiness. In the case of truck drivers, it’s easy to see why falling asleep at the wheel is prevalent – they drive for extended periods of time and don’t have the luxury to pull over for a little shut-eye as often as they should. Shipping companies insist on fast deliveries and keep a tight schedule, which means longer hours on the road. And if there’s a lot of traffic, drivers have even less of a chance to rest.
In answer to this problem, Ford partnered with Sao Paulo-based creative agency GTB to create the SafeCap, a special hat that is able to recognize the movements commonly associated with drowsiness. When the cap thinks its wearer is potentially falling asleep at the wheel, it will react by emitting sounds, lights and vibrations, alerting the driver and waking him (or her) up. The technology involved monitoring head motions to allow SafeCap to differentiate between the head-lolling movements of a driver falling asleep and the head movements made while driving, such as the craning of the head used to check mirrors, the instrument panel or the road. The cap is also equipped with an accelerometer and gyroscope that take into account head movements throughout the ride.
This is yet another great product (let’s not forget Ford’s MAX Motor Dreams crib) that shows a lot of promise. It’s currently still at the prototype stage and it isn’t clear whether the SafeCap will be made available to everyone, but the crib also started that way and got so popular that Ford made it available to its car buyers. According to Engadget, “Ford’s head of sales in Brazil said their “goal is to share with other countries” after tests”, so there’s a possibility that you’ll be able to get your hands on the SafeCap after all. I can see this product be helpful not only to truck drivers, but anyone driving long distances.