NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says more than 100,000 crashes a year are the result of driver fatigue. Now scientists in Britain are developing a system that analyzes a person’s voice to tell when they’re too tired to drive.
As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, British speech scientists say a driver’s voice can reveal just how tired they are behind the wheel. They’ve developed an audio algorithm to extract information that reveals fatigue.
“It can see these very subtle changes that occur even within a day, even within one shift of work,” said Mark Huckvale, a professor at University College London.
Researchers from the university analyzed the speech of a driver during his shift every two hours. They found changes in the pitch, rhythm and quality of the worker’s voice showed his level of tiredness.
“What we’re trying to do is build a model of a person’s voice by making multiple recordings over a period of time,” Huckvale said.
An Australian study showed that being awake for 18 hours produced an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration nearly the same as being legally drunk. Drowsy drivers cause more than 1,500 fatal crashes each year.
The NTSB said that a sleep-deprived driver was responsible for the crash that nearly killed actor Tracy Morgan in 2014, and sleepy engineers have also been blamed for several serious train crashes in recent years.
The British scientists hope to create a commercial device in the next few years. It might be a type of system inside a vehicle, for example, that records a driver’s voice and sends it to a fatigue monitoring center. Its first use would likely be for truck drivers and train engineers.
“Perhaps the worst thing that can happen is the controller would say, ‘Look, you’re sounding very tired. We suggest you just stop and have a break for 30 minutes before you carry on,” Huckvale said.