Engineering Headlines

Seat belt with sensors warns of fatigue and sloppy sleep

Belt calls help
A world-wide unique safety system will monitor the breathing and the heart rate of motorists in the future.

Thanks to the sensors installed in a seatbelt, the technology can even protect the driver from the dangerous second-hand sleep.

Harken is the name of the new safety belt developed by the engineers of the Biomechanics Institute (IBV) in Valencia, Spain.

Harken stands for “Heart and respiration in car embedded nonitrusive sonsors”. The system, whose development the EU financially supports, should be able to be applied across all vehicle types.

Up to now, such driving assistance systems have always been developed by individual manufacturers and have been installed above all in the models of the premium brands.

In the meantime, Audi measures the driver’s steering behavior and forms a coffee cup in case of abnormalities in the display.

Also Mercedes, Volvo and Lexus have such assistants by now in many models as standard.

The system measures breathing and heart rate

The innovative safety system consists of three main components: a sensor in the seat cover that detects breathing, a sensor in the seat belt that measures the heart rate, and a unit that can analyze the signals of the sensors in real time.

Once the system registers irregularities in breathing and heart rate, it alerts the driver to the danger.

When the driver falls asleep, the system detects the same as an accident or even a heart rush of the driver.

In this case, the system automatically sends an emergency call to the nearest emergency call center.

Direct monitoring of body functions

Harken is the world’s first safety system that directly monitors the driver’s body functions.

All systems hitherto are limited to the detection of, for example, retarded reactions or conspicuous steering behavior.

The system is developed in Valencia together with a consortium of suppliers from Spain, Portugal and Germany as well as the University of Manchester and the EII research institute in Tallinn, Estonia.

Germany is involved in the development of the fiber specialist Alatex from the Westphalian town of Emsdetten. Alatex manufactures safety belts.

Whether a system that constantly records the most important data of the driver is accepted by the car drivers is questionable if one recalls the indignation at the introduction of the belt requirement in Germany.

On January 1, 1976, the general, still unpunctual, obligation to use the belt was introduced to predecessors in the Federal Republic of Germany.

The belt obligation preceded an elaborate campaign under the motto “Click First, then start”, with which the widespread rejection should be diminished.

However, the introduction of a fine of 40 marks for driving without a belt in 1984 was a major success.

As a result, the seat back ratio rose from 60 percent to 90 percent. In the meantime it is an absolute self-evident for about 95 per cent of all drivers, first to straighten and then to drive.

About 2.4 million traffic accidents in 2013

The number frightened: 2,414,011 road traffic accidents recorded the police nationwide last year.

The number of accidents rose by half a percentage point over the previous year.

This meant that the year 2013 was the most accidental year since German reunification. Nearly 1.5 million people are injured in traffic accidents every year in the European Union.

For more than 26,000 people last year, road traffic was fatal.

On the whole, however, the number of traffic tugs in Europe is declining.

Compared to 2012, it decreased by 8 percent last year, after having fallen by 9 percent between 2011 and 2012.

Despite the increased number of accidents, so few people have died on German roads in 2013 since the start of the survey in 1953: a total of 3339 buses were reported, 261 persons or 7.3 per cent less than in the previous year.

Compared to the blackest year of accident statistics in 1970 with 21,332 death victims, this is even a decline of more than 80 percent.
However, EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas does not see any reason to sit back because of the number of people on the roads every day.

“On the contrary, we must continue our joint efforts at all levels to further improve road safety in Europe.” And so the EU is promoting the development of the new safety belt.

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