New research by Florida Polytechnic University faculty and students has the goal of detecting and preventing the growing problem of drowsy and distracted driving, one of the main causes of car accidents and fatalities on the roads.
The project, under the guidance of Dr. Kanwal Gagneja, assistant professor of computer science, uses a microcomputer, a camera and a buzzer. The camera aims at the driver’s face to detect if they’re closing their eyes often.
“When you’re drowsy, your eyes start to be more often closed than open,” said Eliezer Pla, a computer science senior from St. Petersburg, Florida. “A certain percentage of eye closure ratio determines the person might be falling asleep at the wheel. And if the driver constantly hits the threshold, the system would buzz them to keep them awake.”
Gagneja said the students developed a software tool to integrate the camera and buzzer system.
“This constant reminder to pay more attention while driving would potentially help reduce accidents,” said Gagneja.
Besides drowsiness, the research also involves measuring the time drivers spend distracted at the wheel. These distractions include, but are not limited to, texting, talking on a hand-held phone, eating, applying makeup, talking to backseat passengers, and more.
“We are focusing on how often people are not looking at the road,” said Lina Brihoum, a senior from Orlando, Florida, majoring in computer science. “The computer will give you a percentage of how much you looked at the road. Let’s say 70% of the time. People will realize they’re not paying as much attention driving as they think they are.”
Distractions and driving under the influence, one of the leading causes of drowsiness, are at the top of the list of growing dangers on the roads, according to a report from the AAA. Those dangers are reflected on statistical findings from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which indicate that distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives in 2016 and injured 391,000 people in 2015.
“Not paying attention is the number one cause for accidents. Hopefully this can prevent some crashes from happening,” said Brihoum.