London: Scientists have developed a device to prevent motorists from falling asleep -- potentially saving 300,000 people from sudden deaths worldwide.
The system, devised at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany, involves tiny cameras that monitor eye movements which trigger an alarm when drivers seem about to nod off.
Cameras are set up to follow the line of vision even when the driver's head moves left or right, reports the Daily Mail.
Utilising up to six dashboard-mounted cameras with compact three to four mm lenses, the system processes up to 200 images per second to detect sleepiness using parameters like line of vision and eyelid position, irrespective of the position of the driver's head.
'What we have developed is a small modular system with its own hardware and programmes on board, so that the line of vision is computed directly within the camera itself,' said Peter Husar of the institute.
'Since the Eye Tracker is fitted with at least two cameras that record images stereoscopically - meaning in three dimensions - the system can easily identify the spatial position of the pupil and the line of vision.
'It will immediately recognise when a driver's eyes are tired or closed for a moment,' Husar said.
The system is called 'Eye Tracker' and could be in the market as early as the end of next year.
The alarm can either come in the form of flashing lights or a bell or siren, or even a vibrator on the steering wheel, and can be adapted to any car on the market.
Its testing is due to start January, 2011 and scientists hope it will be ready for sale by December at around 100 pounds a unit.