In 2013, 37% of American drivers admitted falling asleep behind the wheel, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Several studies have shown that being seriously tired behind the wheel is worse than drinking and driving when it comes to reaction time and judgment.
Even worse, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that driving while drowsy is behind 100,000 crashes a year with 1,500+ deaths. Still, in the next week you're probably going to be driving when you should be taking a nap, because you need to be somewhere. What's the solution?
Self-driving cars are the obvious answer, but those aren't ready for daily use quite yet. There are still some legal, technological and financial hassles to overcome.
In the meantime, Mercedes-Benz is teaming up with electronics-maker LG to keep tired drivers - and those around them - safe. This is a good step because technology introduced in Mercedes cars - side airbags, adaptive cruise control, automated parking, etc. - usually ends up in less expensive cars within 10 years.
Mercedes' new system is called the Advanced Driving Assistance System. Scanners keep an eye on you as you drive. If the system notices that your eyes are closing too much, you aren't focused on driving or you've actually nodded off, it can do a few things.
First, it takes over driving to keep you in your lane and at a safe distance from other cars. It can even brake if you're about to hit something.
The car will use a stereo camera sensor to tell where everything is. It also uses this sensor during normal driving to dim the headlights for oncoming cars.
Once it has control, the system hits you with sound and light to wake you up. Once you're awake, you can take back over from the car by moving the steering wheel or tapping one of the pedals. Hopefully, at that point, you'll pull off the road to take a nap.
The ADAS package is part of a concept car Mercedes is showing off at the Consumer Electronics Show this month.