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Fujitsu car tech senses driver drowsiness

Still in the research phase, the sensors track a driver's heartbeat to tell when they could be falling asleep while driving.

Next time you're faced with the prospect of making a long drive late at night, you'll probably wish you had this new technology from Fujitsu Labs.

Car crash
Fujitsu's new tech hopes to prevent this.

The company is working on a steering wheel sensor system that detects when a driver begins to get drowsy or doze off. The sensors keep track of the driver's heart rate through his or her hands on the wheel while steering. As a person gets closer to falling asleep, the heart rate begins to regulate.

Once the system detects a driver getting ready to fall asleep, several things could happen: the windows could automatically roll down, the car's radio could be turned up, or there could be sensory feedback from the steering wheel to jolt someone awake.

The system isn't a finished product. Right now, it's still in the research and development phase, but the company hopes to have production models for consumer vehicles as well as commercial trucks ready by 2010.

Fujitsu isn't the only company looking to prevent unnecessary asleep-at-the-wheel accidents. Micron has been working on a camera system to monitor and protect drivers. And Delphi has been developing an eye-tracking system that measures the blink rate of a driver, which could indicate when a driver is getting drowsy.