The Australian Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, Paul Fletcher, has launched a landmark study aimed at reducing heavy vehicle crashes and improving truck driver well-being, featuring world-leading fatigue prevention and driver monitoring technology.
The US$5m (A$6.5m) Advanced Safe Truck Concept, an Australian Government Cooperative Research Centre Project, aims to reduce fatal truck crashes by developing new vehicle technologies, achieved by studying driver behavior and better understanding the impact of driver fatigue and distraction in particular. The project partnership is headed by Canberra-based company Seeing Machines, which develops face and eye tracking software, and includes the Monash University Accident Research Center (MUARC) and freight haulage company Ron Finemore Transport Services.
The study is the first of its kind in the world to link in-cab driver monitoring technology with the external traffic and roadway in real time. The two-phase program will make use of Seeing Machines’ Guardian technology platform that actively monitors for, and alerts drivers to, fatigue and distraction, with the system fitted to vehicles from the Ron Finemore Transport Services fleet as part of the project’s Naturalistic Road Safety Study.
Phase one of the project has already seen the testing of truck drivers in MUARC’s Advanced Driving Simulator, the first time a truck simulator has been used for research in Australia. Drivers are tested in a rested and a tired state so a better understanding of fatigue on truck safety can be achieved. The full project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
“The type of technology deployed here has the potential to be applied across all vehicles, potentially saving thousands of lives, and preventing countless serious injuries,” noted Associate Professor Michael Fitzharris, head of MUARC’s Regulation and In-depth Crash Investigation Unit.
“By working in partnership with key stakeholders, the program represents an important opportunity to demonstrate the value of combining in-vehicle driver monitoring with what is happening on the road, in real time. We would hope that this type of technology is fitted to all vehicles as standard equipment in the future.”
Seeing Machines’ chief scientific officer and project leader, Dr Michael Lenné, commented, “We have the opportunity to drive clever product design in revolutionary ways to enhance road safety. Furthermore, it’s very rewarding to see the Australian government recognize both the technological innovation and the road safety impact of this project. It’s exciting to work with great partners on a project that will positively impact the heavy vehicle industry in Australia and around the world and consequently, the safety of all road users.”
MUARC’s director, Professor Judith Charlton, added, “This research could make a profound impact in reducing fatalities in the freight industry. We pride ourselves on translating evidence-based research into real-world solutions, and by working alongside our industry partners and with the support of the federal government, this project has the capacity to prevent injuries and save lives.”