|Have you seen the Angel of Death? You
many not have seen him, but I did. In a split second, I saw him approaching
with a scary face to pull my sole out. But with a sheer luck I escaped,
after I almost resigned myself to the inevitable fate.
The beginning started when I was driving
my car in a drizzly morning on Route IL-38. The sky was overcast, and the
sun was hiding behind heavy layers of clouds. I was heading to the city
of Geneva to meet Mr. Art Paganessi, the Vice President of S&N manufacturing.
The reason for the meeting was to discuss issues related to the design
of a Solenoid to be used in Caterpillar’s earth moving equipment.
I had about 24 miles to drive from my home
city, Dekalb, IL, to S&N manufacturing in Geneva. My concern was to
make sure that I arrive on time for my meeting. I had enough time to arrive
early to my destination, but my only worry was about the cunning police
of Illinois who have nothing to do except setting traps to catch poor speeding
motorists like me. I was not in the mood to try to outsmart them, as I
used to do. Therefore, I decided to drive at the speed limit by setting
the cruse control to 55 MPH. I did not worry about slipping in the rain,
since my car was an all wheel drive (AWD) Buick Rendezvous SUV, which should
handle the slippery road without a problem. The car in front of me
was traveling with the same speed, and I didn’t need to adjust the cruse
control very often.
The steady humming from the tire and the
regular squeaking of the wiper, mixed with the splashing noise of the rain,
gave an aura of serenity. The relaxing atmosphere eased the driving tension
and relaxed my muscles. As usual, I started wondering about unrelated issues
here and there. While I was in this imaginary world, I felt drowsy with
heavy eyelids . I realized that I am starting to lose contact with my surroundings.
To keep myself awake, I began to sing some
nonsense lyrics that I invented on the spot. After a while, I got annoyed
with my ugly voice and I experimented with other awakening techniques.
I tried shaking my legs violently left and right. When this failed, I started
shaking my face with my hand. And when I got tired, I began pinching my
legs. Soon it became apparent that singing, pinching, shaking, or even
howling are useless, since I became more sleepy. I felt like a self propelled
lawn mower with empty gas tank. The machine will not propel itself, regardless
of how hard you cheer it to go. A sleepy man can not be self awakening,
the only thing that he can do is dreaming.
Dreaming! That what I was doing when I
opened my eyes to discover to my horror that I am only about 6 feet from
the rear of a slowing car in front of me. The breaks light of that car
was illuminating bloody red, and the left hand side signal was blinking.
The car was about to turn left on the next street, just 10 feet away.
I realized that I am doomed, and there
is nothing to save me from crashing into that car. Unconsciously I pressed
the break very hard and turned my car sharply to the right. Fortunately,
the car jumped on the road shoulder just in time to avoid an eminent accident.
I was very lucky that time. The AWD system
saved me. It took over the breaking system and prevented the car from slipping
or rotating. If this happened, I would have been with my car in a ditch
beside the road. The angel of death would have been rubbing his hand with
eagerness to finish his assignment. But thanks to the AWD system, it
worked as designed.
This incidence was so fast that I did not
comprehend what happened till I heard the horn of the car behind me. The
sound from the horn was mixed with tire squeaking rippling with a steam
of insulting statements. As if insults were not enough, he did not forget
to gesture with his hand to me. The driver was apparently very upset of
my sudden maneuvering that almost caused him to have an accident.
I was shaking, but thanked God for escaping
an unpleasant fate. I went back on the road. And after I calmed down a
bit, I asked myself: “Who was at fault?”
The answer was: “nobody: my dozing was
involuntary, the front car did not violate any traffic regulations, and
the back car was unaware of what is taking place in front of me.” I felt
that this accident can happen to me again where the outcome can not be
The problem was how to prevent dosing when
driving. After a lot of thinking, I concluded that the only way to prevent
this from happening again is to install a system that slows down the car
if the distance to the front car becomes dangerously close. I felt if I
have such a system in my car, I can safely sleep and drive, without
the need of singing, screaming, or howling to say awake. I promised myself
to buy the car that has this system, if it is produced.
(To be continued)
Part - One
Part - Two Part - Three
Dr. Ibrahim M. Abdel-Motaleb
Professor of Electrical
DeKalb, IL 60115