Due to the added comfort and vehicle automation brought about by advancements in automobile technology researchers in Spain’s Biomechanics Institute (IBV) have developed a seatbelt and a seat cover that work in tandem to track the driver’s vital signs to determine whether they’re about to doze off.

Recent study suggests that the heart rate and breathing patterns are good indicators of whether or not a driver is fatigued from continuous driving.

Called the Harken device, it is made up of sensors that are embedded on the seatbelt and seat cover and will be virtually invisible and unobtrusive to the driver.

These sensors monitor the driver’s vitals signs, which include cardiac activity and breathing patterns all while compensating for the vibrations of the car while in motion and the tiny movements the driver makes while operating the vehicle.

If it detects significant changes showing drowsiness or fatigue, it will signal an alarm to tell warn the driver and prevent an accident.

"When people go into a state of fatigue or drowsiness, modifications appear in their breathing and heart rate. (The device) can monitor those variables and therefore warn the driver before the symptoms appear," said Jose Solaz from the Biomechanics Institute.

After successfully passing test done while driving on race circuits, the Harken device may soon see testing streets across in Spain to see how effective it is in real traffic situations.

The challenge facing the developers is integrating it into vehicles of today.  The prototype is currently using a specific type of textile that may not be suitable with current safety standards and specifications of modern vehicles.