Technology Tackles the Drowsy Driver Problem

June 11, 2013

Drowsiness is the truck driver's number one nemesis. More than 90% of long-haul truck accidents are caused by human error– the vast majority confirmed to be fatigue related. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsiness is the primary factor in 100,000 police-reported crashes annually, resulting in 76,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths.

In an effort to mitigate the drowsy driver problem, Caterpillar, the world's largest manufacturer of construction mining equipment, will start selling eye- and face-tracking technology to keep sleepy mine truck drivers from getting into accidents.

Developer of the driver monitoring technology, Seeing Machines, has signed a strategic agreement with Caterpillar Global Mining LLC., to provide the Driver Safety Solution (DSS) in-cab Fatigue Monitoring.

DSS is a robust, automatic platform that uses cutting edge eye tracking algorithms to detect operator drowsiness and distraction. It has been specifically designed for straightforward deployment into vehicles and environments where fatigue and attention must be monitored and managed in real time.

The DSS-IVS (in vehicle system) uses a small, console-mounted camera to track operator eye behavior, determine the driver's drowsiness state and detect micro sleeps the instant they occur. Audio and seat vibration alarms immediately alert the operator, and site dispatchers are notified of incidents in real-time.

Fatigued drivers often are not aware of their condition, frequently driving for up to 30 seconds with their eyes totally closed — a situation known as micro-sleeps. Studies show that driving drowsy is equivalent to being under the influence of alcohol or drugs and that drowsiness impairs the ability to make decisions.

Cat says the DSS system works equally well day and night, even if an operator wears tinted safety glasses or prescription eyewear. And unlike other companies' solutions that require drivers to wear awkward proprietary "tethered" glasses with infrared eye sensors or caps with brain monitoring electrodes, DSS is non-contact and requires no calibration.

DSS provides drivers with instant "in-cab" feedback when a fatigue or distraction event is detected. The DSS In-Vehicle System simultaneously transmits the event information from the vehicle to the DSSi (DSS Information System) console, informing your site control room operators of the pending risks. Dispatchers can visually verify event data by examining the transmitted video snippets of the driver's eyes. Properly and promptly informed dispatchers are able to intervene, keeping drivers safe and managing site risk in accordance with the organization's FRMS.

Post-event, the DSSi's reporting feature helps safety managers analyze trends in driver fatigue and distraction over longer periods of time.

There has been a major effort to develop technologies to monitor fatigue, but they have been primarily for automotive use — particularly with on-highway trucks," says David Edwards, Safety Solutions Manager for Caterpillar Global Mining. "There isn't one technology that has come to the forefront for use in the mining industry."

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