Saab help drivers keep an eye on safety

ctm has once again been kind enough to put his Swedish translation skills into action.

The following is a press release from Saab Sweden. They are participating in a Swedish safety study called Intelligent Vehicle Safety Systems (IVSS), along with a number of other companies. The ultimate aim is too provide new technologies and thoughts on road safety for the future.

This particular project is being conducted in conjunction with Smart Eye AB, Siemens VDO, VTI, and Linköpings university./IDA, Scania CV and has a total budget of around 11.5 million SEK.


Saab Automobile is in the process of developing a driver attention warning system that will detect the two most common causes behind traffic accidents: tiredness and inattentiveness. Noticing signs of this, the system warns through a combination of text and voice messages, and also through vibrations in the seat.

Saab Safety System Contrary to other similar systems, the system under development at Saab do not base its actions on rapid or random changes of the course of the vehicle. Instead, it looks for tiredness and inattentiveness directly at the driver.

The system is based on two miniature cameras with lenses for infrared light aimed at the eyes of the driver. One camera is places low at the A-pillar of the driver side, and the other one in the middle of the dashboard. The pictures from the cameras are analyzed by computer software that trigger a range of different warnings when changes in behavior indicate at tiredness or when the driver take his eyes of the road in front of the vehicle.

By using infrared technology, the cameras can deliver useful pictures both day and night, and it also works when the driver is wearing glasses.


The system utilizes an advanced algorithm were the eyes blinking are measured. When the system detects eyes that are closed longer than in normal blinking, this is taken as an indication of tiredness and trigger warnings at three different levels. First, a sound signal and the message “Tired?” on the display. If there is no immediate change of the eye blinking back to normal behavior, the voice message “Are you sleepy?” is played through the speakers. If there are still no changes of behavior, a loud signal is played through the speakers followed by “You are dangerously sleepy. Please stop the car as soon as traffic allows it.” This message can only be stopped by pressing a button on the dashboard, thereby resetting the system.


Saab Safety system Click the image to enlarge and see the computers doing their thang.

The cameras also follow the eye and head movements of the driver. When the vision moves away from what is considered the zone of primary attention (that is, the central area of the windscreen directly in front of the driver) a timer start. If the eyes of the driver fail to return to this zone in about two seconds, the seat starts to vibrate. The vibration only stops when the head and the eyes indicate that the driver again has his attention out front through the windscreen.

The system is good enough in analyzing the pictures, that it can detect intentional looks outside the primary zone. As an example, this happens when the driver looks in the rearview mirrors. The system then allows more time to pass before the warning start.

Safety for real life

The driver attention warning system is a natural step in Saab’s real-life safety philosophy, since it focus on what the driver is actually doing behind the wheel instead of what the driver should be doing.

The system, currently installed in a Saab 9-3 SportCombi, is being developed by the Human Vehicle Integration Team at the General Motors Europe development center in Trollhättan. The development is a part of a research program called Intelligent Vehicle Safety System (IVSS), supported by the Swedish government. (

– “Its a known fact that many driver don’t stop and take a break when they are tired. Thats why we now try to help the drivers help themselves,” says Arne Nåbo, director of the Human Vehicle Integration Team that are specializing on driver ergonomics and on developing the interaction between the driver and the infotainment system in vehicles from Saab

– “The system also helps in stopping a dangerous behavior we call ‘cognitive tunnel vision”. That’s when the driver becomes too occupied in looking for the favorite CD, programming the radio, or trying to reach something on the floor,” says Arne Nåbo.


Under the supervision of the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, VTI, a Saab 9-3 SportCombi with the system installed will go through an 8 month long field test.

The vehicle is equipped with a wireless 3G modem, transmitting data every third minute to a computer at Linköping University where the system will analyzed. A number of voluntaries will drive the vehicle, each one for a month. During the first week for each driver, the inattentiveness detection will be turned off so that the difference with and without the system can be studied.

The field test is part of the development and testing that aims to make the system available in future cars from Saab. In its final customer version, its likely that only one camera is needed and that it will be hidden inside the dashboard.

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  1. I doubt it will be useful at this stage. You’d need a lot more than 2 stationary cameras. I may be the only one, but when I’m tired I usually lean against the door, putting my head too far to the left for the cameras to recognize. Although maybe the system also operates if you’re not in the screen at all??
    Also, those two times I *had* to drive late at night while I was tired, this would’ve been a real pain in the rear. But probably safer.

  2. i hope the camera has some wide angle, so it does something like face tracking (as shown up in some webcams – it works). On the other hand the system would maybe initialize an alert when u are leaving the angle.

  3. “Finding” the head and the eyes are no problem with todays standard technology. Its not that you have to sit still and position your head in a very certain way for it to work. What is the problem (and that goes for lot of other advanced technology) is to interpret what is going on and decide what to do with that information. This is usually what makes or breaks a system when it comes to user friendliness.

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