Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology have developed an eye-tracking device that could save 300,000 lives a year around the world, reports the Daily Mai.
The system, Eyetracker, monitors the drivers' lines of vision and issues a warning if they appear to be nodding off.
Utilising up to six dashboard-mounted cameras with compact 3 to 4 millimetre lenses, the system processes up to 200 images per second to detect sleepiness using parameters like line of vision and eyelid position, irrespective of the position of the driver's head.
The alarm can either come in the form of flashing lights or a bell or siren, or even a vibrator on the steering wheel, and can be adapted to any car in the market.
"What we have developed is a small modular system with its own hardware and programmes on board, so that the line of vision is computed directly within the camera itself," said Professor Peter Husar of the institute.
"Since the Eyetracker is fitted with at least two cameras that record images stereoscopically, meaning in three dimensions, the system can easily identify the spatial position of the pupil and the line of vision. It will immediately recognise when a driver's eyes are are tired or close their eyes for a moment," he added.
Testing of the device is due to start in Jan 2011 and the scientists hope it would be ready for sale by December at around 100 pounds a unit.