Continental shows system to fight driver distraction

February 08, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Automotive supplier Continental has introduced a concept vehicle in which the output signals of multiple driver assistance systems are bundled in an innovative multi-purpose LED display. With this design the inventors hope to reduce driver distraction.

The statistic of the US Department of Transportation speaks a clear language: Driver distraction is a major cause of accidents. In the United States alone, every day ten persons are killed and more than 1100 receive an injury in accidents caused by distracted drivers. At the Chicago Auto Show, automotive supplier Continental showed a concept car designed to fight distraction and encourage drivers to focus on the traffic.

Modern driver assistance systems such as lane assist, adaptive cruise control (AAC) and collision warning systems help to avoid or defuse dangerous traffic situations. In addition, an infrared camera inside the vehicle detects in which direction the driver is looking. Thus, the concept vehicle "knows" if a driver really pays attention to the traffic in an emerging dangerous situation or if he is distracted. Continental's concept vehicle uses of a LED light strip which surrounds the whole of the vehicle's interior and directs the driver's attention towards a dangerous situation. The signals generated by the LED strip depend on the respective situation. "The Driver Focus Vehicle contains a 'digital co-pilot that continuously scans the surrounding area and issues a warning if the driver appears to ignore a danger", explained Helmut Matschi, general manager of Continental's Interior Division.

In order to detect to where the driver's attention is directed, the vehicle is equipped with an infrared camera in the hub of the steering wheel. This camera monitors the driver's face and detects movements of head and eyes. Thus, the system can determine if the driver is focused on the street or if he is distracted or tired. The LED strip directs the driver's attention towards an imminent danger. It gets its input signals from a number of driver assistance systems such as the AAC or collision warning assist and from the infrared camera. If the system detects that the danger of a collision builds up while the driver is not paying full attention