Their recently patented technology is based on steering wheel movements - which are more variable in drowsy drivers - and offers an affordable and more reliable alternative to currently available video-based driver drowsiness detection systems.
"Video-based systems that use cameras to detect when a car is drifting out of its lane are cumbersome and expensive," said Hans Van Dongen, research professor at the WSU Sleep and Performance Research Center. "They don't work well on snow-covered or curvy roads, in darkness or when lane markers are faded or missing.
"Our invention provides an inexpensive and user-friendly technology that overcomes these limitations and can help catch fatigue earlier, well before accidents are likely to happen," said Van Dongen, who developed the technology with postdoctoral research fellow Pia Forsman.
The science behind the invention was published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.