Mercedes Implements a Drowsy Driver Alert System

Over one-third of all drivers in the U.S. admit to having fallen asleep while driving. About 60 percent of U.S. drivers admit to driving while feeling drowsy. And what is the cost for this behavior? About 100,000 car crashes per year by fatigued drives, with about 71,000 of them resulting in injuries, 1,550 in deaths, and $12.5 billion dollars in losses. In response to this problem, Mercedes will be implementing its news Mercedes Attention Assist system in its E-class sedan production starting in 2009.

The Mercedes Attention Assist system will monitor a driver's behavior through a steering sensor as well as monitoring "braking, acceleration, the time and road conditions to judge a driver's behavior"--unlike other systems that use cameras to monitor a driver's eyes, the only "new mechanical part" that needed to be added was a special steering sensor. The system observes the driver throughout a trip and builds a driver profile based on the sensor inputs. When the system detects a significant deviation from the profile and determines that it is a result of fatigue, it provides a warning to the driver in the forms of audible "warning chimes" and visual indicators on the dash, such as a coffee-cup symbol.

The system was developed based on driving simulations, and real-world tests with over 550 test subjects, covering over 750,000 kilometers of road. AutoWeek reports that Mercedes has been working on this system for over 10 years and that a significant number of the test subjects were studied while wearing "brain-wave-monitoring skullcaps."

According to Jorg Breuer, an Attention Assist expert for Mercedes, the Attention Assist system can also detect when a driver is deviating from normal driving behavior when distracted: "It is also sensitive to distracted drivers who are on the cell phone or talking to the kids in the back seat. They will get a warning, too." Breuer also stated, "the effects of alcohol are very, very similar to the effects of drowsy driving, and we would assume it would work for that, too."

Having an attention alert function in a car can certainly help toward avoiding a driver fatigue- or distraction-based accident, but it does not provide any guarantees that such an accident can be avoided. The best prevention is to not get behind the wheel in the first place if you are drowsy. provides the following recommendations to help prevent drowsy driving:

  • Get adequate sleep--most adults need 7-9 hours to maintain proper alertness during the day
  • Schedule proper breaks--about every 100 miles or 2 hours during long trips
  • Arrange for a travel companion--someone to talk with and share the driving
  • Avoid alcohol and sedating medications--check your labels or ask your doctor

If you do feel yourself getting drowsy, recommends that you stop driving and find a safe place to sleep for the night or at least take a 15 to 20 minute nap.

Additional information for this news post culled from, and Mercedes-Benz-Blog 2008.