Helena Alves creates electronic textile for intelligent steering wheel
Graphene-based textile cover measures the galvanic response of drivers' hand skin, generating indicators to monitor driver's physiological and psychological state.

Developed with a technique that allows the integration of graphene-based electronic devices directly into textile fibers, while retaining the look, flexibility, and touch of the fabric, the steering wheel cover allows to measure driver's skin galvanic response.

In other words, the sensors coupled on the cover record the skin’s electrical conductivity, a property that acts as an indicator of the psychological and physiological state of individuals, allowing to identify changes in conductivity and relate them to human behavior patterns.

Captured by the cover developed at CICECO, the signals are analyzed in real time by an algorithm developed at Instituto Superior Técnico and at the Telecommunications Institute, at the Lisbon center, by the research team Ana Fred. Then, when analyzing the data, if it recognizes signs associated with fatigue the system triggers an alert for the driver's phone or smartwatch.

Currently, explains the researcher Helena Alves, "the prototype transmits the data via Bluetooth, which allows the issuance of notifications, for example, to a mobile phone or smartwatch." The project coordinator predicts that in the near future "it will be possible to converge to scenarios where the system is connected directly to the vehicle and it is the onboard computer itself to present the notifications or change the behavior of the same."

"Stress is indeed a potential danger on the road. However, the main risks that are intended to prevent with this work are the distractions and, in particular, the fatigue behind the wheel, "explains the researcher.

In this sense, "systems that contribute to assess drivers' status in terms of fatigue and other biomedical parameters may have a high added value in terms of road safety." "Additional safety measures such as feedback in the form of audio or vibrations can be coupled to these systems," says Helena Alves, "to recover the driver's attention or even cause vehicle immobilization."

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