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Vehicle Safety: Ford SafeCap Helps Keep Drivers From Falling Asleep at the Wheel

Vehicle safety is a core goal of every carmaker. With each all-new or redesigned model comes an assortment of new available safety-technology features. Blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front-collision emergency braking and so forth are becoming commonplace, even on more-affordable models.

Ford South America has pushed the envelope for vehicle safety even further with the introduction of its SafeCap prototype. Working with the Sao Paulo-based creative agency GTB, Ford developed the SafeCap in recognition of its 60 years of truck production in Brazil. Truckers pull long shifts behind the wheel, often in excess of 10 hours. With them in mind, Ford engineered the special cap to help keep truckers from falling asleep while on the road.

In a 2017 report, NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) estimated that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths on U.S. roads in 2013 alone. Anyone who drives longer distances with any regularity has probably dozed off at the wheel at one time or another. Ford’s SafeCap may just be one solution to the problem.

“The SafeCap,” said Lyle Watters, president of Ford South America, “is another example of our commitment to utilizing technology both in our vehicles and also in broader driving culture to make life easier and safer for our customers.”

Wake-Up Call

After mapping the head movements of truck drivers, GTB created algorithms to recognize normal movements, such as glancing in an outboard mirror, looking down at the speedometer or simply stretching the neck, from signs of nodding off. Fitted with a gyroscope and an accelerometer, SafeCap monitors a driver’s head movements. Sensing a driver may be dozing off, SafeCap vibrates, sounds an alarm and flashes small lights in the hat’s brim until the driver responds, demonstrating he or she is awake.

The goal is to not just rouse a dozing driver, but to serve as a wake-up call that it’s time to take a break.

When Can I Get One?

Don’t begin searching for the SafeCap just yet. Right now it’s only a prototype. Ford hopes to generate sufficient interest and demand to justify putting it into production. Introduced at a recent Sao Paulo truck show, SafeCap, if given the go ahead, could be on the market internationally in the next 12 to 18 months. Ford hasn’t estimated a retail cost for SafeCap, but it probably won’t be cheap.

What it means to you: We can certainly expect carmakers to address falling asleep at the wheel in future technology for vehicle safety. In fact, the Mercedes Attention Assist System does just that. If Ford does eventually market its SafeCap, it could be an affordable bridge to built-in stay-awake technology.

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