Driver alert system detects changes in vehicle behaviour

A new driver alert system from Ford analyses driver performance and issues a warning if the driver shows signs of drowsiness or erratic steering.

The system comprises a small forward-facing camera connected to an on-board computer. The camera is mounted on the back of the rear-view mirror and is trained to identify lane markings on both sides of the vehicle.

When the vehicle is on the move, the computer looks at the road ahead and predicts where the car should be positioned relative to the lane markings. It then measures where the vehicle actually is, and if the difference is significant the system issues a warning.

’Let’s imagine the driver is tired, their concentration levels start to drop and the vehicle starts to drift from side to side,’ said Ford engineer Margareta Nieh. ’The software will detect this change in the vehicle’s behaviour, triggering a two-stage warning process.’

First, a soft warning will pop up in the instrument cluster as a text message and will stay there for 10 seconds with an accompanying chime. If the driver continues to demonstrate drowsy behaviour, a hard warning will appear in the instrument cluster, which the driver must acknowledge by pressing the OK button.

’If the driver fails to acknowledge the hard warning, the system can only be reset by stopping the car and opening the driver’s door,’ Nieh added. ’The system then recognises that perhaps you have changed drivers or that you have had a rest and can continue.’

Although the camera is trained to look for lane markings on both sides of the road, it will function if markings on just one side are detected. The system can be switched off via the instrument cluster.

’The system is programmed to recognise intentional lane-changing manoeuvres so it won’t issue a warning whenever you overtake, for example,’ said Nieh.

The driver alert system is now available on the Ford Focus and the Ford Mondeo, as well as on the S-MAX and Galaxy models.