Eye-tracking system to prevent drivers sleeping on wheel
An Australian company called Seeing Machines has developed eye-tracking technology that tackles one of the biggest safety issues in the mining and construction industries: driver fatigue.
According to a report by Caterpillar — the world’s largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment — operator fatigue is one of the most prevalent root causes of earth-moving equipment (large vehicles used in mining, such as bulldozers and excavators) accidents within the mining industry. Shifts can often be 12-hours long, with drivers taking “microsleeps” when suffering from fatigue. Within the public sector, driver drowsiness and inattention are key factors in contributing to commercial truck crashes, accounting for 1,200 deaths and 76,000 injuries each year — at a cost of around $12.4 billion (£8.2 billion) to the commercial trucking industry. Meanwhile, human error is responsible for around 93 percent of haulage truck accidents in surface mining, and up to 70 percent of these are fatigue-related.
As a result, Caterpillar has partnered with Seeing Machines to integrate its eye-tracking technology into some of its mining trucks around the world. There are a total of around 38,500 mining trucks in the world, and Caterpillar controls between 60 and 75 percent of the market
The system features an in-vehicle rugged PC with GPS, an accelerometer, a camera and two infrared light sources. The computer vision algorithms track human eye and eyelid behaviour, looking for the frequency of blinking, duration of blinks and the velocity of the eyelid. It also analyses the head position, which generally starts to drop between six and seven seconds after the eyes close.
If drivers do close their eyes for longer than expected — generally anything longer than 1.6 seconds — an alarm goes off in the truck, combining a noise and the vibration of a motor positioned in the seat. If it happens a second time, the dispatcher or controller will be alerted to the problem. They will then be able to chat to the driver over the radio to see if they are OK and whether they need a break. A third alarm generally means that the driver should be taken off duty to avoid accidents.
The system can counteract for the Sun’s glare and even sees the eyes through sunglasses.
All of the data relating to these events can be aggregated centrally to assess which drivers tend to get fatigued more quickly, which can help inform how to make a mine more efficient. If there is a fatigue event, the in-cab camera can send a few seconds of video of just the eyes of the driver so that a third party can verify whether or not it was a microsleep. This data can then be fed back to the employee to suggest how they could be sleeping or eating in a healthier way.
by: Olivia Solon