Volvo has long been known for its obsessive approach to vehicle safety. For years, innovations such as its Side Impact Protection System and more recently a plethora of preventative safety gadgets have saved occupants from serious harm should the worst happen.
> However, a big factor in road collisions is driver alertness, and all the clever technology in the world won't prevent a car crashing into something if the driver has nodded off – until now.
The Swedish manufacturer is aiming to take its active safety systems a step further by using infrared sensors to analyse a driver behind the wheel. Bathing them in the invisible light, the system will be able to tell if a driver is paying attention or about to nod off, based on their eye movements and position in the seat.
"This will enable the driver to be able to rely a bit more on their car, and know that it will help them when needed," explains Per Landfors, engineer at Volvo Cars and project leader for driver support functions.
Even if you've just diverted your eyes away from the road momentarily to change the radio station, the system will alert you to oncoming obstacles. It can also recommend drivers take a break, should it detect their eyelids becoming too heavy.
The new system will work in conjunction with already available active safety tech, which prevents a car from wandering out of lane or getting too close to the car in front.
The technology has already been trialled in various test cars, so could soon be making its showroom debut in a production Volvo model.
It is one of many initiatives that Volvo has introduced as part of its 'Vision 2020', in which it aims to reduce the number of people killed in an accident involving a Volvo to zero.
The innovation could also have other applications, including 'recognising' a driver and tailoring the car automatically – seating position, heating preferences etc. – to suit.