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Transport industry adopts face tracking to save lives

Updated: May 12, 2020

Nigel Moffiet,

Face tracking software is being deployed in a bid to tackle driver fatigue and distraction in the commercial vehicle industry. Canberra-based technology developer Seeing Machines has created the Guardian driver monitoring system.

It has been introduced into 27 New Zealand fleets over the last 18 months and has the backing of insurance provider NZI.

ERoad fleet management is also set up to integrate with the software which is distributed in New Zealand by local firm Autosense.

Transport sector stakeholders were invited to a panel discussion about the new technology on July 26 at Fisher House, East Tamaki, Auckland.

The technology was initially developed for use in machinery deployed in the Australian mining industry.

It works by tracking the movement of a driver’s face – monitoring eyelids, facial expressions and which direction the driver is looking.

If the driver closes his or her eyes for 1.5 seconds it is deemed a “micro sleep” and an in-cab alarm sounds and the seat vibrates to jolt the driver back to full alertness

The same happens if the eye tracking software detects the driver is not looking at the road for a sustained period.

After each incident, a seven second video recording of the driver’s face is sent to the Seeing Machines 24/7 operations centre and analysed.

A driver dispatcher is notified within two minutes so that action can be taken if needed.

Autosense chief executive Charles Dawson says the technology can save transport businesses millions in productivity and also saves in social costs of work place accidents.

The integration with ERoad also makes it easy for transport companies to manage their fleet and drivers on one platform, Dawson says.

“There is a need for a cultural change in the industry to one of more training and monitoring as working drivers cause crashes far more often than we realise.

“The AI technology is helping to make New Zealand a safer, smarter place for drivers and when you consider the social cost of accidents, that is a great thing for the wider community,” he says.

Ian Taylor, NZI head of commercial motor vehicle insurance, says some of the most enthusiastic people to hear about the system are the partners of the drivers.

“We’ve learnt that a lot of truckies’ partners feel anxious while they’re on a long haul, and this gives them reassurance that their loved one will get home safely.”

Fleet companies also need to adopt other safety measures such as online driver training which identifies at risk drivers, Taylor says.

This also includes using data from systems like ERoad which not only collects road user charges but ranks factors such as harsh braking, rapid acceleration and speed.

“The information gathered from this data can be turned into meaningful insights to measure on-road behaviours of drivers for trucking companies to then find solutions to continue to keep drivers safe on the road,” Taylor says.

The Guardian system is based on a 36 month operating lease which kicks off at NZ$105 per unit with larger volumes by negotiation.

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