According to The Asahi Shimbun, passengers will soon be able to ride with improved peace of mind with expressway bus operator Willer Express Japan Inc., which is set to introduce wearable drowsiness detectors for all its drivers.
Willer Express’s entire fleet of about 190 buses will be fitted with Fujitsu Ltd.’s “FEELythm” device by October 2016, the company said. According to the Osaka-based firm, it will be the first expressway bus operator in Japan to equip all its vehicles with the device.
“Competition is intense in the expressway bus industry,” Willer Express President Koji Hirayama said during a news conference.
“Although users often choose a bus service based on the prices, I want them to also focus on the safety measures a bus operator implements and the types of services that are offered.”
The FEELythm’s sensor, which is attached to a driver’s earlobe, detects drowsiness by measuring the pulse rate. A unit worn around the neck and connected to the sensor vibrates to alert the driver when drowsiness starts to kick in.
The device will enable officials in charge of monitoring the bus operation at Willer Express headquarters to check when drowsiness is detected and urge drivers to take a rest.
Willer Express’s move came as demands are growing for the improvement of safety measures including through intensified management of drivers’ health following a series of fatal accidents involving expressway buses.
In 2012, seven passengers were killed and 39 were injured after a bus crashed into noise barriers on Kanetsu Expressway after the driver dozed off.
In January 2016, a ski bus veered off the road and tumbled down a hillside in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, killing 15 people on board. The subsequent transport ministry investigation revealed slipshod safety management on the part of the bus operator.
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