Better than Red Bull

By |  July 22, 2016
Illustration from caterpillar.com

Illustration from caterpillar.com

We have heard a lot about autonomous vehicles, and have seen demonstrations. It was reported late last year that mining giant Rio Tinto began using dozens of these driverless trucks at two of its mines in Australia, operating the vehicles remotely from a center more than 700 miles away.

Not only do these haul trucks run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, they are also the ultimate in operator safety. What better way to keep an operator safe than to have that person away from the mine, sitting behind a desk?

And while autonomous technology evolves in other mining vehicles like wheel loaders and excavators, and slowly trickles down from enormous mines to, someday, pits and quarries, we’re not there yet. In the meantime, Caterpillar is working on an alternative way to keep all vehicle operators safe.

Caterpillar Safety Services has partnered with the tech company Seeing Machines to put fatigue-detection systems into mining trucks around the world.

The system uses an in-cab camera, as well as advanced detection and prevention technologies, to track eye and facial movement in order to monitor fatigue and distraction events, such as microsleeps, texting and cellphone use as they occur.

It provides for a real-time intervention strategy, which reduces risk, improving safety for the vehicle operator and others in the area, and it helps preserve company assets.

A report from Huffington Post details what happens next: “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, Ill.”

According to the report, “Once an alarm goes off in a truck, the driver becomes much more aware of their fatigue, and is more cautious and proactive about drowsy driving than they would be otherwise.”

Seeing Machines says its technology is already used worldwide across the automotive, mining, transport and aviation industries, as well as by many of the leading academic research groups and transportation authorities.

Such in-cab monitoring might be a little bit Big Brother, but until autonomous vehicles become commonplace, monitoring operators for signs of fatigue could be a lifesaver.

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About the Author:

Darren Constantino is an editor of Pit & Quarry magazine. He can be reached at dconstantino@northcoastmedia.net.

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