In keeping with Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, November 6-12, we thought it fitting to follow up our story on one-third of drivers admitting to driving while half-asleep with a list of some of the family cars available today with drowsy alert technology.
While different manufacturers call their systems by various names, such as driver alert, drowsiness alert, or attention assist, and they may differ in the number of sounds or chimes and symbols they display, the bottom line is that they all serve to get the driver’s attention, and, hopefully, jolt them awake.
2012 Ford Explorer
As we reported recently, the Ford Explorer mid-size crossover SUV will debut Lane Keeping Technology early in 2012. The system has three features designed to keep drivers in control behind the wheel, including Driver Alert System, Lane Keeping Alert and Lane Keeping Aid. The Driver Alert System automatically detects if the driver is drowsy and initiates a first-level chime in concert with a coffee cup symbol on the dashboard instrument cluster. If the driver fails to respond with corrected driving, another chime and warning appear. The next level of protection for the drowsy driver is Lane Keeping Alert, which vibrates the steering wheel if the driver unintentionally changes lanes. And Lane Keeping Aid provides steering torque to alert the driver of the need to steer back toward the center of the lane. No word yet on how much this triple-layer system will cost.
2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class
Standard on the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class luxury sedan (along with the 2012 E-Class luxury sedan and the 2012 M-Class mid-size luxury SUV), Attention Assist is, in the automaker’s words, “the first system of its kind.” Attention Assist continuously monitors over 70 different parameters of driving behavior in the first minutes of a drive to establish a pattern and then automatically alerts the driver with both visual and audible warnings if it detects drowsiness on long trips. Mercedes-Benz does point out that Attention Assist might not be sufficient to alert a driver that’s fatigued or distracted of lane drift, and cannot be relied upon to avoid an accident or injury.
2012 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design
Driver Alert Control (DAC) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW), included in optional trim or $2,100 technology package on the 2012 Volvo S60 luxury sedan in all models (T5, T6, and R-Design), work together to help keep the driver alert and in control. Volvo says that DAC is the first in the world of passenger cars to “alert the driver when his or her concentration level is affected.”
Volvo driver alert control
Along with LDW, which signals when the vehicle crosses road markings without obvious reason, the system is designed to address the risk of accidents caused by driver distraction and, presumably, drowsiness. But Volvo says it’s only designed for driving on major roads, not in urban traffic, and it operates at speeds exceeding 40 mph and only where there are detectable lane markers in front of the vehicle. DAC and LDW are also available on the 2012 Volvo S80 luxury sedan and the 2012 XC60 and XC70 luxury crossover SUVs.
2013 Lexus GS 350
Lexus GS 350
The all-new 2013 Lexus GS 350 mid-size luxury sedan, available in February 2012, will feature, among other notable safety technologies, Lane Keep Assist (LKA) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW). Lexus says the GS is the first in the segment to offer LKA with active steering torque to provide a small amount to assist the driver in maintaining course, while LDW alerts the driver if the system detects that the vehicle is beginning to drift out of the lane. There is also an optional pre-collision system that utilizes an infrared camera to monitor the driver’s eyes to check on driver status. If the driver doesn’t appear to be looking forward at the time a collision appears imminent, the system will initiate a warning at an earlier threshold. If the driver fails to respond appropriately, the system will initiate braking intervention up to two seconds before impact, helping to lessen the severity of the collision.
As the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s research shows, traveling at 65 miles per hour means you go 170 feet in three seconds. Closing your eyes for a “micro-sleep” for just that little bit of time can result in you veering into another lane or off the road, perhaps causing a crash.
Maybe if you’re in the market for your next family car, you might consider buying one with optional technology that can help keep you awake. Remember, you can’t know when you’re about to fall asleep and you can’t will yourself not to sleep. Along with getting a good night’s sleep, not driving all night after a full day of working, and a few other tips for preventing drowsy driving, this kind of technology may be worth the money you spend on it.