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New car tells drowsy drivers to pull over

August 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you work late or long hours, you may find yourself getting sleepy behind the wheel. Drowsy driving is a serious problem that causes thousands of accidents. But a new system may help tired drivers.Mercedes-Benz just launched a new E-Class sedan, which has all the latest safety gear. It has airbags throughout the interior and a state-of-the-art braking system. It also has something to help deal with the growing problem of people dozing off behind the wheel.

"This system is just like having a co-driver that would say 'Hey, I think you might need a rest,'" said Bart Herring, Spokesman, Mercedes-Benz.

"Attention Assist" is standard on the new E-Class, and is already being well-received by sleep experts. Americans are increasingly sleep-deprived, and the danger of an accident due to drowsy driving is very real.

"20 percent of all accidents on the road are due to drowsy driving, secondary to lack of sleep and fatigue," said Dr. Said Mostafavi, a sleep disorder expert.

Experts also say drowsy driving is responsible for about 100,000 accidents, of which 1,500 are fatal over the span of a year.

Although there have been other systems on the market in the past, Attention Assist can tell when a driver is exhibiting signs of drowsy behavior. It then warns the driver to stop and rest.

Mercedes-Benz says in addition to the E-class, it will add the equipment to other models as well.

The car can tell a driver is tired by 70 different parameters, which are monitored as you drive, like steering wheel motions that come across as inadvertent, or sudden, reactive pedal application.

The alerts will keep going as long as you're still exhibiting signs of drowsiness.

"You actually can bypass the warning, but it will come back every 15 minutes just to continuously warn you, until you actually turn off the engine, release the seatbelt and there's the whole cycle of opening and closing the door. That will actually reset the system," said Herring.

This technology could trickle down to less expensive models of cars. The E-class starts at about $48,000. In the meantime, everyone on the road will potentially benefit from the system's ability to stop drowsy drivers.

"It doesn't only affect the road users, this affects everyone," said Herring.


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