Monday, May 2, 2011

Test of the Distracted Driving Eye Reader Unit

Just wanted to write this up before I went to the SEMA Summit.

I tested a product called the driver fatigue alarm system. I am much better at expressing myself with the spoken compared to the written word but I will do my best to make this comprehensible.

I picked this up on my last visit to China and the product works by using a scanner that can read your eye movement and then will signal you to “Please Pay Attention to the Road” (in a Man’s Voice) or “Please Concentrate on Driving” on the road in a Women Voice. I drove with it for 35 hours driving from Los Angeles to Virginia Beach (in 3 days) and here are some things that I noticed. You can see the picture I posted. It has a Camera in the middle and what I think are infared lights around the edges. At night the infared lights were red in color but during the day you could not even see they were on. There is also a green light that is on that flashes when your head begins to turn.

First of all I learned that I am a very distracted driver. Just when I was starting to drive and went to program my GPS the unit told me to “Please Pay Attention to the Road” I continued to receive this warning when I tried to change radio stations, talked on the phone and was not paying attention (my phone was hands free) looked at deer on the side of the road, (or roadkill) reached over to pick up a burger or fry that was on the passenger seat or looked at tornado damage. I took my eyes off the road a lot during my 35 hours of driving. It would first give you a warning in a polite voice and if you did not look back at the road then it would start a very obnoxious beeping.

I think the unit was effective. It had multiple warnings but when I was driving long stretch of roads I could go an hour or longer without a reminder. It did not work as well on winding roads as your head would need to turn to follow the road and the indicator would tell you to “Please Concentrate on your Driving” It also seemed to go off unexpectedly when the road was very bumpy or wavy so there was a lot of movement in the vehicle. I also was not happy how it performed in the cities where you had to move your head a lot more as you made turns from one road to another and had to scan a lot more for safety reasons to drive. You cannot always just keep your head pointing forward. There is a 2 second lag time though and most of the time this seemed adequate but if you were on a small road pulling onto a major road and had to keep your head turned for an extended period of time to wait for a clear spot to pull out the beeping was a little too much. I did end up unplugging it during phone calls because as I continued to move my head it became a point of conversation for those that were calling me. I also would unplug it when I was driving on local roads as my head needed to move much more then the unit would allow.

It also did not seem to be real consistent. It has 3 sensitivity setting and I ran it at the most sensitive for the whole drive but sometimes it seemed very sensitive and other times it was not as sensitive. It seemed to make a difference if you were wearing a ball cap or not and it seemed to work best when wearing no hat but wearing Sunglasses. It seemed to work better on those then with my regular glasses or no glasses at all. In fact sometimes I wondered if it was reading head movement instead of looking at my eyes but I never did dare to just close my eyes for 2 seconds while I was driving to see if the warning would go off. The other thing is that whenever I rested my hand on top of the steering wheel it would block the eye reader and I would get the warning.

The other thing I noticed is that it seemed to work better at night then during the day and seemed to be worse when the Sun was shining in the back window directly into the sensors on the unit. I would guess for the 15 minutes or so of direct sunlight that came at Sunset (I was driving east) that the sensors seemed to not work at all. I also would guess that it worked better at night because you are not as distracted as you cannot see deer and other things off the side of the road that would attract your attention.

In conclusion I would say that the unit works but it is much better for long haul drivers then city drivers. I showed one guy at a truck stop and they commented that it sounded like his wife but at least he would not have to feed it or stop to let her go to the bathroom and he could always unplug it if it got too annoying. I think that all parents who have children that have a tendency to text and drive would benefit by having one of these in their car. On the few occasions that I dipped my head to check an email on my blackberry the buzzer went off. I do have to say that it did make me pay more attention to the road and also made me realize how often I take my eyes off the road while driving.

It did work but I would think it would be something you would not want in your vehicle 24/7. It would be good use for long drives and to put in some one’s car who you know had a problem with texting and driving. You would just have to make a unit you could not shut off for them.