Ford Brazil’s Heavy Truck division has developed an innovative technology to help truck drivers ride more safely and avoid a common situation that happens during their trip routines: travel fatigue. The Safe Cap looks like a common hat at first sight. However, it comes equipped with sensors that are capable of interpreting the driver’s head movements to warn if the user is tired or sleepy behind the wheel.
The alert is issued by three kinds of signals: vibration, sound and light flashes to guide the driver to stop for a rest before following with the drip. The first step to create the accessory came from a study conducted to identify the movements from the truck driver that are related to its normal work routine and the movements that indicate drowsiness. This database was then transferred to the central processing unit of the hat, which works connected to an accelerometer and a gyroscope to identify each type of situation.
The novelty was presented as part of the celebration of 60 years of production of Ford’s Trucks in Brazil, which symbolizes the spirit of innovation from the brand and its constant research investment focused on traffic safety and thousands of professionals who drive daily to move the economy of the country.
“Ford is the first automotive company to think about creating a wearable device for drivers to use for the time when they are behind the wheel that can contribute to prevent accidents. This way, we are able to reinforce our commitment on bringing embedded technology not only for vehicles, but also through accessories that are capable of making the lives of drivers easier and the focus on safety as a priority in our technology investments”, said Lyle Watters, president of Ford South America.
Ford tested the Safe Cap for eight months by a selected group of drivers for more than 5 thousand kilometers in real driving conditions. It was also presented to traffic safety experts and sleep studies experts who recognized its potential to help the prevention of road accidents.
The prototype still going through the test phase and, after that, it will follow with the process of patenting and certification. Currently, there are no plants for its production and commercialization in short and medium term. However, Ford has shown interest in sharing this technology with partners and customers to advance its development and enable its market introduction.
Profile of the Truck Drivers
The Brazilian National Transport Confederation conducted research with truck drivers in 2016. It revealed that more than 60 per cent of these professionals consider their activity dangerous. They ride for about 10 thousand kilometers per month and close to 45 per cent have already received an offer of some kind of illicit drug or substance, mainly in fuel stations. Additionally, more than 11 per cent were involved in at least one collision within the last few years.
This data indicates that there is a high level of stress in this profession and it shows the potential of the Safe Cap to provide a safer experience at the wheel for truck drivers. The survey also shows that these professionals have an average age of 44 and have been in the profession for 18 years. The average age of the trucks used is almost 14 years.
Among their concerns are the cost of the fuel (46.4 per cent), the low freight cost (40.1 per cent) and the possibility of being robbed (37.6 per cent). As positive points, they mentioned mainly the possibility of knowing new places (47 per cent) and meeting new people (33 per cent).