Saab officials get a little tired of that other Swedish automaker getting all the attention for making "safe" cars.
To let the world know that the people at Saab's headquarters in Trollhättan, Sweden, think about safety, too, Saab unveiled a system that could make its way into a production car in the near future.
Saab's Driver Attention Warning System (DAWS) takes an aggressive approach to accident prevention.
Two miniature infrared cameras, mounted in the dash, monitor driver head and eye movement.
If the driver's eyes stray from what Saab calls the primary attention zone -- basically between the A-pillars-an audible warning sounds, followed by a brief pulse of the brakes.
The alarm will sound if the driver's gaze wanders away from the primary attention zone for about two seconds -- about the time it takes to grab a mobile phone out of a briefcase.
System monitors blinking
The system is speed-sensitive, allowing more time for a driver's eyes to wander at slower speeds. Slowing down to navigate a roundabout, where the driver's gaze leaves the primary attention zone to check oncoming traffic, doesn't bring unwanted alarms.
DAWS monitors eyelids and eye movement, and sounds an alarm if it detects drowsiness.
The frequency of blinking decreases with drowsiness, so an alarm can sound to wake the driver and advise a rest stop.
Arne Nabo, Saab's chief of ergonomics in charge of developing the DAWS project, said the system could also automate personalized settings.
Each person's infrared facial images are unique, Nabo said, so the system could be used to automatically adjust seat, steering wheel and mirrors, and apply radio and telephone preferences as well as temperature and airflow settings.
And in the event of a major crash, airbag deployment could be adjusted based on the driver's head position.
Saab has not decided when to offer its DAWS system, which was shown in a 9-3 sport sedan, on a production car, but it could be soon.
Said Nabo: "We know the system works."