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Ford Researches Drowsy Drivers

January 5, 2004

Ford Motor Co. announced on December 29 that it will begin testing drowsy drivers soon to find ways to help them keep control of their vehicles, according to an article in the Detroit News. Ford said it would use its $8 million advanced driving simulator, known as Virttex, to test 24 subjects in the coming months on the effects of sleep deprivation. Fatigued driving leads to at least 1,500 deaths each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They estimate that fatigue is directly responsible for at least 100,000 police-reported traffic crashes each year. Sleep experts say those numbers are likely to be very conservative, since police record-keeping varies from state to state. For the drowsiness study, Ford's test subjects will forgo sleep for 24 hours before driving for up to three hours in the simulator. The test subjects will wear a specially-equipped headset that measures eye movements. Ford researchers record what happens when sensors detect signs of sleepiness, such as closing eyelids.
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