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Farewell to Drowsy Driving

2019-09-06

One of the top fears among drivers would be dozing off while driving. DDREM is a vehicle operator safety system that prevents falling asleep at the wheel.

According to statistics released by the Korea Transportation Safety Authority, accidents caused by sleep-deprived driving caused more than 2000 accidents every year from 2015-2017. Analysis of the statistics revealed that the mortality rate (the number of deaths relative to the number of accidents) of accidents caused by sleep-deprived driving accident was 4 divers, which was twice that of the average 2. The fatality rate of sleep-deprived driving is high because unlike most other accidents, the vehicle operator lacks the capacity to respond to imminent threat, such as by turning the steering wheel or stepping on the brakes, and collides into oncoming vehicles or other obstacles at full speed. Consider how fast cars can move even in a second, sleep-deprived driving is a great danger on the road, to everyone involved.

What are some ways to prevent accidents caused by sleep-deprived driving? Of course, the most fundamental solution is to be not sleep-deprived. To develop a habit of taking sufficient breaks while driving long distances, or whenever necessary. Not overestimating one’s ability to maintain vigilance under sleep-deprived states, and taking regular and sufficient breaks can address most issues of sleep-deprived driving. Another solution is to allow safety systems in vehicles to help prevent sleep-deprivation accidents. DDREM(Departed Driver Rescue and Exit Maneuver) system introduced at CES 2018 by Hyundai Mobis is a great example of this. What measures can DDREM take to prevent sleep-deprived driving? Senior Manager Douglas C. MacKenzie of Autonomous Vehicle R&D, Advanced Engineering at Mobis North America answered the question for us.

DDREM fights sleeping at the wheel

Senior Manager Douglas MacKenzie at Hyundai Mobis North America

What is a DDREM system? 

DDREM is the name for a set of technologies that recognize when the vehicle operator is incapacitated – dozing off or is suffering a cardiac arrest – and takes over and drives the vehicle to a safe place. According to a recent study, (Asleep at the Wheel. The Road to Addressing Drowsy Driving, 2017.2) sleeping at the wheel causes about 15% of fatal accidents in the US are from sleep-deprived driving. That adds up to about 6,000 deaths per year. A US-wide poll on sleep-deprived driving in 2002 showed that about 37% of drivers had experience driving while drowsy. that is to say, all drivers are exposed to the dangers of falling asleep at the wheel, and the DDREM was developed to minimize the chances of accidents.


How does the DDREM system work to prevent accidents?

Well, even if you board a vehicle with the DDREM system installed, it would not be obvious that it is there, or much less how it works. But one day, driving long-distance after a night of insufficient rest, the driver just might find out how the DDREM operates.
The DDREM is a 2-step process for accident prevention for sleep-deprived driving situations. First, the system gives a warning, and also provides driving assistance. If the system suspects that the driver is dozing at the wheel, the DDREM system alerts the driver to wake up, and sends a warning that recommends taking a break from the wheel. If the driver does not notice, and continues to doze, and the vehicle changes lanes, then the DDREM system uses the lane assist function to keep the vehicle from veering off. This second part happens while the driver is monitored while the system continues to try and wake up the driver with warning sounds and vibrations.

Sometimes, this may not be enough to wake up the driver, and if several iterations of this fails to make the driver alert, then the DDREM system considers the driver unable to drive and initiates its second stage. System takes complete control of the steering and gradually moves the vehicle to the wayside, unto the shoulder or safe zone. After the vehicle is parked, it uses the telematics system to contact help. This is because the driver may not be simply drowsy, but may in an emergency situation and unable to drive.


It seems that for the DDREM system to be implemented, completely autonomous driving technologies will be required? 

The DDREM is developed based on the hardware and software specifications of a level-2 autonomous driving system (US Society of Automotive Engineers standard). Considering a large number of mass-produced vehicles on the roads today already have level-2 autonomous driving or equivalent, this is a system that is already quite contemporary and feasible. It goes without saying that once autonomous driving level 4 and 5 becomes the standard, DDREM will virtually guarantee the safety of drowsy drivers. As it is unclear at the moment when fully-autonomous cars will enter the market, the DDREM system is a very realistic and useful means to prevent sleep-deprived accidents.

The DDREM system prevents driving while drowsy, and accidents which may result from driving while drowsy.

In order the DDREM system to work in realistic circumstances, the system will need to determine exactly when and how the driver is dozing off behind the wheel. 

There are certain ‘tells’ when a driver is dozing off. The DDREM system uses camera sensors installed in the cabin to monitor the position of the driver’s head, line of sight, blinking speeds, and other identifiable physiological behavior. The system also monitors the environment such as direction of movement and state and acceleration and deceleration. Other external factors also provide data that can be recognized by the system. The front camera monitors vehicle movement and position, to identify any zig-zag movement patterns. After collecting all these data points and combining them to extrapolate a correlation, it becomes quite dependable at identifying when the driver is dozing.

As I mentioned before, there are ‘tells’ and different drivers are bound to have different ‘tells’. So the pattern recognition will not be the same across the board. So to summarize, the DDREM system also continuously learns the baseline patterns of a normal driving condition for the driver, so it can distinguish between different driving states, and minimize false alarm.

The DDREM system is one of the most accurate and fine-tuned safety systems known today.

Safety systems like the DDREM are an important issue for global automotive brands. Are any other brands developing a similar system? 

Yes, other automakers have presented about their systems being developed to alert the driver when dozing off, or to steer the car to safety when an emergency is recognized. However, the presently announced systems are neither as accurate, or as fine-tuned as the DDREM is. Especially in terms of an independent safety system, nothing comes close to the DDREM.


When is the DDREM system entering full production? 

Hyundai Mobis completed its preliminary studies in 2017. Once approvement is given this year, we have the capacity to proceed to mass production. Based on the data collected in the second half of 2018, and we complete fine-tuning and finalize adjustments in 2019, we are looking at mass production around 2021. Of course these guesstimations, and nothing is set in stone.
Hyundai Mobis is committed to developing the DDREM system to optimize vehicle and system, so the driver can drive in the safest possible environment. I genuinely look forward to the DDREM system entering mass production on vehicles soon, to prevent accident and save lives.