Caterpillar Safety Services monitors its truck drivers for signs of sleep fatigue. Drowsy driving is notoriously tough to detect. There’s no test to prove it, the way a breathalyzer can prove someone was driving drunk. But technology to detect drowsy driving is in the works.
In commercial transport, one industry is leading the way: mining. The stakes are particularly high in this field since the enormous haul trucks used in mining are several times the height of a person. Imagine dozing off at the wheel of one of these.
Caterpillar Safety Services, a consultancy branch of the global mining company, has partnered with the tech company Seeing Machines to put fatigue detection software in thousands of mining trucks around the world. The software uses a camera, speaker and light system to measure signs of fatigue like eye closure and head position.
When a potential “fatigue event” is detected, the system sounds an alarm in the truck and sends a video clip of the driver to a 24-hour “sleep fatigue center” at Caterpillar headquarters in Peoria, Illinois. At that point, a safety advisor contacts them via radio, notifies their site manager, and sometimes recommends a sleep intervention.
“This system automatically scans for the characteristics of microsleep in a driver,” Sal Angelone, a fatigue consultant at the company, told The Huffington Post, referencing the brief, involuntary pockets of unconsciousness that are highly dangerous to drivers. “But this is verified by a human working at our headquarters in Peoria.”
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