Image source: Garmin

Garmin wants to prevent accidents by detecting driver drowsiness

Garmin might soon help make your car trips a bit safer by detecting driver drowsiness while on the road. This is according to a patent application that was filed earlier this year. Interestingly, the filing also describes blood pressure functionality in a Garmin watch.

Drowsy drivers are one of the main causes of vehicle accidents. They account for nearly one in 10 crashes according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). That equates to around 100,000 crashes every year, with over 70,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities (source: National Safety Council). Something that is always sitting on your wrist that has the ability to combat this problem would definitely find widespread use and improve road safety for everyone.

Garmin wants to help combat driver drowsiness

Garmin is, apparently, looking at adopting smartwatches to watch out for drowsiness while you are driving. This is according to Patent number 17190242 published earlier this year by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

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The paperwork describes a mobile electronic device that comes with a display, a speaker, memory, GPS for determining location, a heart rate and a processor – aka a smartwatch. The heart rate sensor would churn out info on beats per minute along with heart rate variability. Both would be used by an algorithm to determine a drowsiness level of the user. This is then tracked over time.

Garmin drowsiness detection
Image source: USPTO

At the same time the GPS would monitor the current speed of the vehicle. The idea is for the watch display and speakers to kick in if the drowsiness level exceeds a pre-determined threshold. Hopefully this would help get the driver into a more wakeful state or encourage him to take some time off the road.

This, of course, raises the question how the watch would know you are the driver. After all, you could just be sitting in the car or another type of vehicle. Presumably you would need to indicate in some way to the timepiece that you are, indeed, driving a car.

Garmin drowsiness detection
Image source: USPTO

Interestingly, the patent also talks about blood pressure tracking functionality in a Garmin watch. Reading are taken on-demand by resting your finger on the bezel of the device and single physical button. This feeds into the stress reading.

Garmin drowsiness detection
Image source: USPTO

The watch would also alert you when it is a good time to take a reading. There is no point in taking blood pressure measurements while you are moving. You do need to be at rest to get some useful info. The watch also encourages you to take a blood pressure reading each day as indicated by the images accompanying the patent.

It is no surprise that Garmin is exploring blood pressure tracking via sensors built into watches. Many other companies are. Valencell is perhaps taking the lead. We are expecting first watches capable of tracking blood pressure via the Valencell heart rate sensor to land sometime next year.

Garmin has worked on similar-type tech before

This sounds a bit similar to Garmin’s collaboration with auto maker Mercedes-Benz a couple of years ago. At the time the the duo came up with a smartphone app that tapped into Vivoactive 3 readings to let your car know how stressed you are. This also helped with early identification of drowsiness.

Unveiled at CES 2019 alongside the high-tech 2020 CLA Coupe, the Mercedes-Benz branded Vivoactive 3 is able to track your heart rate and stress levels. Once connected to the MercedesMe ENERGIZING app, the timepiece communicates that information to the car’s dashboard (the Infotainment system – MBUX).

The vehicle then figures out how calm or stressed you are and adapts accordingly. For example it might change the air conditioning, ambiance lighting, new-type seat massages, fragrance or music to keep you chill. If it determines you’re under emotional strain or tension, it will even go as far as plotting less rage-inducting routes.

The Mercedes-branded Vivoactive 3 comes with custom materials and display screens. There’s also a special version of Venu that you can purchase. Garmin says their other watches are also compatible with the Mercedes app.

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Ivan Jovin

Ivan has been a tech journalist for over 7 years now, covering all kinds of technology issues. He is the guy who gets to dive deep into the latest wearable tech news.

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