Every driver has been there. On a long road trip, the eyelids sag, the senses become dulled and a restful catnap grows alluring. It is a recipe for disaster.
But highway rest areas are not always at hand when the body craves sleep. Electronics specialistCorp. has a solution.
At the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Japan's No.1 supplier displays a buck of its drowsy driver monitoring system, which uses a camera to detect a driver's closing eyelids.
Every time the driver blinks, the system analyzes how long it takes. A long, lazy blink is a red flag that the driver is tired.
Also, electrocardiograph detection, which consists of a metallic strip on the steering wheel, keeps tabs on the driver's heart rate.
When the system senses the driver is falling asleep, an audible alarm sounds, and a blast of cold air comes from below the head restraint to rouse the driver.
In addition,says it could use light, music, oxygen-rich air and strong smells to perk up drowsy drivers and keep them alert.
Denso says it hopes to be in production with the system by about 2010.
More immediately, Denso supplies the all-new flagship Lexus LS 460 with an innovative back-row air-conditioning system capable of compensating for changes in temperature from one side of the car to the other.
A new matrix infrared ray sensor calculates body-temperature readings for backseat passengers and controls airflow for maximum comfort on either side of the car.
Denso has been a supplier sponsor of the Detroit auto show for the past three years, but for the first time the company had an exhibit on the show floor, in the lower-level Michigan Hall, alongside smaller companies and publications specializing in the aftermarket and motorsports.
Overall, Denso continues to ride the coattails of its biggest customer and partial ownerMotor Corp., as the supplier expands worldwide while many others are closing facilities or struggling through bankruptcy.
Denso is expanding production of its common-rail diesel fuel-injection system plant in Hungary, which is growing to keep pace with heavy demand for diesel vehicles throughout Europe.
Denso also has set up a branch office in Moscow to serve the growing auto industry in Russia.
In North America, it is expanding its joint-venture facility in Sterling, KY, which produces automotive fuel-pump modules, and its Maryville, TN, plant, which manufactures electronic components.
The Maryville project will be complete by year's end, and both expansions will create about 650 new jobs by 2010, says Matt Matsushita, president and CEO of Denso International America.
In its home market, Denso is building two new manufacturing plants in Japan, one for electronics and the other for ceramic components.
“We're expanding our capacity for air-conditioning production in Turkey, and we've added a new company in China to produce instrument clusters,” Matsushita says.
With 106,000 employees worldwide, Denso finished its 2006 fiscal year March 31, with $27.3 billion in sales and net income of $1.4 billion.
Matsushita says he expects Denso sales in 2007 to grow between 8% and 10%.