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Saving kiwi lives with in-cab face-tracking technology

Updated: May 12, 2020

Robert Barry, NZ Autocar

Fatigue and distraction are becoming the major contributors to road deaths in New Zealand but in-cab driver facial monitoring technology developed by a group of PhD students at Australia National University in Canberra is now making a difference for 27 Kiwi heavy commercial fleets.

A seminar for transport industry stakeholders in Auckland yesterday has learnt how the Guardian driver monitoring system developed by Seeing Machines for use in the cabs of heavy trucks and tool of trade light commercial vehicles can prevent road deaths from happening.

Representatives from Canberra-based Seeing Machines, Auckland-based transport solutions company EROAD, Taupo-based Autosense Driving Training, IAG insurance brands NZI and Lumley, and Z Mini Tankers provided the seminar audience with some thought provoking stories and data from their combined learning.

Master of ceremonies and road safety advocate Greg Murphy introduced the four seminar speakers while providing an insight into his journey to improve the driving culture in New Zealand through the Holden Street Smart programme and other initiatives.

Seeing Machines business development vice president Steven Fletcher is based in Singapore but says the globally focussed company retains its Canberra base, and now employs more than 25 employees with a PhD in a staff of 200.

The Guardian system was first developed for the Australian mining industry but it became quickly apparent to the company founders that there were greater applications for the face and eye tracking algorithm they had developed.

Fletcher says the technology has applications in the automotive, fleet, aviation, and rail sectors as well as the off-road sector for which it was first developed.

“We have helped companies such as Toll Group, Air Liquide, Chevron, Shell, Land Transport Authority Singapore, and DP World, improve their safety record through implementation of our life saving technology, by hugely reducing the risk of vehicle accidents that occur from fatigue or distracted operators,” says Fletcher.

The Guardian driver monitoring system developed by Seeing Machines is an in cab camera system which uses a Face and Eye tracking algorithm to monitor driver fatigue and distraction. Should a truck driver fall asleep at the wheel or be distracted by a device from 1 to 5 seconds - the system will sound an alarm and vibrate the driver’s seat to rouse them.

After each incident a seven second recording is sent to the Seeing Machines monitoring centre in Tucson which analyses the footage and it will send an alert to the transport company within two minutes if it deems more urgent action is required.

Autosense is the New Zealand distributor for Guardian, and managing director Charles Dawson says more than 800 Seeing Machine units are installed in 27 fleets.

“We are currently seeing between 5 and 30 sleep events per month through the Seeing Machines,” says Dawson.

“We find that 70 percent of fatigue events happen in the first hour of a driver’s shift,” he says.

IAG heavy motor insurance brands NZI and Lumley are backing and supporting the installation of Guardian systems into customer vehicles for trials, and the head of NZI heavy motor Ian Taylor says only one customer took the system out after their trial, the rest have continued to use the units and some have bought more systems for their fleet.

EROAD sales and customer engagement general manager Andrew Davies says it made perfect sense for the brand to integrate its EHUBO2 system with Seeing Machines Guardian technology to be able to give customers even greater transparency of their vehicles and drivers.

“Customers can now check on the health and wellbeing of their vehicles as well as the health and wellbeing of their drivers,” says Davies.

Two serious accidents that fortunately did not result in fatalities saw Z Mini Tankers take action to develop an alertness programme for the franchise transport operators which has resulted in all 80 vehicles in the fleet being fitted with the Guardian system.

Z Energy New Zealand HSSE business partner - Mini Tankers Peter Weston says the alertness programmes primary objective is very simple and to the point.

We want to ensure that our franchise operators arrive safely to work and then arrive safely home,” says Weston.

“It was about changing our culture around speed management and seat belt management, and managing our operational risks to look after our drivers and their family,” he says.

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