Truckers embracing wearable tech to combat drowsy driving
Truck driver fatigue is a leading cause of crashes with as much as 13 percent of commercial truck drivers fatigued at the time of a crash, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
FMCSA said the causes include inadequate sleep, lengthy hours of work, physical or mental exertion or strenuous activities.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said general drowsy driving causes 72,000 crashes, 44, 000 injuries and 800 fatalities a year. The CDC says commercial truck drivers are far more likely to drive drowsy or fatigued than other drivers.
Technology companies are working to lower those numbers with products that keep drivers awake.
Early drowsy-driving monitoring systems featured a cab-mounted camera facing the driver that monitored eyelid and head droops. Privacy concerns proved to be an obstacle for this technology.
The latest generation of wearable tech is more versatile, employing caps, vests, wrist bands and eye wear so the driver can often forget he or she is wearing a monitoring device.
SmartCap, an Australian company, developed a cap device that recognized the signs of fatigue. SmartCap’s wearable technology was developed using EEG (electroencephalography), the gold standard in sleep science. EEG has been used for more than 70 years and is unaffected by glare, humidity, head turns, eye disease or behavior. SmartCap’s many technologies are predictive, and they do not require post processing or live monitoring of data to provide real time operator alerts, according to the company.
Optalert manufactures glasses that measure eye blinking with an LED monitor. The system tracks when eyelids have been closed too long and alerts the driver. The real-time measurements are displayed on a dash-mounted device with alarms and notifications. Optalert’s scientifically validated Johns Drowsiness Scale (JDSTM) enables an objective, real time, quantifiable measure of drowsiness, according to the company.
A headset made by Maven Machines detects if a driver is looking forward through the windshield, up, down or sideways, and measures mirror checks, which can decrease in frequency if a driver is getting tired. The headset detects head bobs and jerks, signs the driver is falling asleep, according to the company.
“What the technology allows us to do is monitor the driver by sensing fatigue and distraction in real time and alerting the driver in real time,” said Maven CEO Avishai Geller. “The data is also available on our data platform and available to dispatchers and safety managers as well,” he told Transport Topics.
Some drivers still have dashboard mounted cameras watching them. Guardian’s face and gaze-tracking algorithms measure the driver’s head position and eye closure and, when safety parameters are exceeded, audio alarms and seat vibration are immediately activated. Guardian also features a forward-facing camera which captures critical information about road conditions at the time of the event, according to the company.
When a fatigue or distraction event is detected, data and footage are immediately relayed to the 24/7 Guardian Centre, which then alerts fleet management and allows them to respond in real time to the developing situation in the cab.
At Fatigue Science, a software company, they help organizations reduce risk, improve productivity, and optimize human performance through the science of sleep.
Fatigue Science’s enterprise suite, Readi, analyzes sleep data from wearables to project when a driver will feel tired. A predictive tool and a personal alert system, Readi helps drivers learn to recognize the early onset signs of fatigue. Drivers and truck companies can adjust shift schedules and provide sleep help resources based on accurate data provided by the software, according to Fatigue Science’s Robert Higdon, vice president for product and corporate development.