It was just last week that we heard about how researchers from Nottingham Trent University are looking at embedding heart rate sensors in car seats, to detect when drivers are nodding off. Well, it turns out that they're not the only ones. A consortium of European companies and institutes is developing a similar system known as HARKEN, which uses seat-located sensors to monitor both the driver's heart rate and their rate of respiration.

The system consists of three components. A sensor on the inside of the seat belt's chest strap monitors the heart rate, sensors embedded in the seat back measure respiration, and a signal processing unit (SPU) beneath the seat analyzes the data relayed by those sensors.

If the combined sensor readings indicate that the driver is becoming dangerously fatigued, the system will sound an alarm or otherwise alert them to the fact. In order to keep false alarms to a minimum, the SPU is reportedly capable of filtering out "noise" caused by movements of the vehicle or the driver.

As with the Nottingham Trent seat, the idea is that the sensors will be integrated in such a way that they will be invisible to the user – that person will just sit down in a normal-looking seat, and pull on a normal-looking seat belt.

HARKEN (Heart and respiration in-car embedded nonintrusive sensors) has already been assessed on a closed track, with real-world on-the-road tests scheduled to take place soon.

More information is available in the video below.

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