There's nothing scarier as a parent than those late night, über-long car rides home — especially when your car drifts over the rumble strips and you realize you've inadvertently dozed off for a moment. That's what prompted the creation of Steer, a wearable device to prevent drivers from falling asleep. The device itself measures just under 3 inches long by 2 inches wide, and attaches to a the wearer's arm with an adjustable strap. As yet another wearable device, its design isn't terribly shocking — but it's mechanism to keep drivers from dozing off behind the wheel literally is. Steer shocks drivers awake with a tiny electrical zap.
So, how does Steer work? According to its Kickstarter page, Steer uses 16 different sensors to measure a driver's heart rate. As melatonin levels rise — the hormone that makes you sleepy — your heart rate decreases. After establishing a baseline heart rate, Steer monitors your heart rate every two seconds. If your heart rate drops by 10 units, Steer will vibrate and flash a light. But if drops another three units, Steer will deliver a "gentle electric shock."
While this might seem like a pretty drastic way to remain awake than driving, Creative Mode, the tech company behind the product, notes that an electrical shock is safer than chugging coffee or energy drinks while behind the wheel.
Drowsy driving can be deadly — according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving killed 846 people in 2014 alone. From 2005 to 2009, drowsy driving accounted for an estimated 83,000 car accidents. Vlad Ilyin, Creative Mode's founder and creator of Steer, told website Digital Trends he was inspired to create such a device when a friend of his crashed into a tree after falling asleep for a few seconds while driving. Ilyin's friend suffered a broken collarbone, but is otherwise OK. But what about his "shocking" decision to make a device that actually shocks drivers awake? Ilyin explained it was a matter of trial and error, according to Digital Trends:
We thought of different ways of how to wake up a person, so it’s not too distractive and too irritating. At the first, vibration came to our minds. Then, after a few tests, we found out that in certain situations vibration is not always noticeable and there should be something stronger. The electric shock seemed like a crazy idea at first but, after a few kinds of research, we found that a gentle electric impulse is not harmful and at low amperage, it does not hurt at all.
So for those of you picturing someone swerving off the road because they've been shocked awake, you can rest easy that Steer isn't trading one hazard behind the wheel for another.
Steer is currently available on Kickstarter through Monday. Early backers of the device will be able to pre-order Steer for less than $130. The device will be available for mass retail at approximately $230 starting in November.