How sleep can govern driving schedules
Systems already exist that emit warnings if a truck driver appears to be tired or lacking concentration. Now trials are in progress with the aim of factoring the driver’s sleep quality into the equation.
“Our vision is driving and rest periods that are adapted to suit the individual,” says Kerstin Hanson, who has developed the prototype known as “individual driving hours”.
Driving and rest periods for professional drivers are governed by law. The aim is to prevent accidents and the same periods apply to everyone, regardless of how well a driver has slept or how alert he/she is at the time. This is where the new technology comes into the picture.
“Personal sensors have become both more common and less expensive. This applies to everything from pedometers to blood-pressure measurements using a smartphone. At the same time, haulage companies are finding it difficult to recruit young people to work as drivers. Individually adapted driving schedules could help to increase self-determination and make the job more attractive,” says Kerstin Hanson, Business Innovation Manager at Volvo IT.
During the first part of the trial, five drivers have worn a sensor round their wrist for 14 days. The sensor looks like a watch and measures body movements. The movement pattern is then linked to the time of day and anticipated sleeping habits. This produces a picture of sleep quality.
“Sleep is important for our quality of life and health. We also know, for example, that truck drivers are affected by sleep apnea, short periods in which they stop breathing, more frequently than other people, during the night,” adds Kerstin Hanson. The drivers who have taken part in the study have received feedback relating to their sleeping habits. They have also answered questions about how they feel about being followed round the clock.
“We wanted to see how the technology works and to determine how this kind of monitoring is perceived. The feedback has not been exclusively positive, but, if this system can lead to individually adapted driving periods, the drivers thought it was worth it.” By integrating the wrist sensor with current warning systems, Kerstin Hanson is hoping to be able to create added value. The system would be able to indicate, at any time, whether the driver is sufficiently alert to drive his/her vehicle.
“In the long term, this solution could be an alternative to current legislation, but we have not yet reached that point. The target now is to evaluate the system in a pilot project in collaboration with the Swedish Transport Administration.”