Caterpillar, a brand known for heavy equipment and machinery, is dabbling into facial recognition technology for trucks in the mining industry.
Mining is one of the biggest industries involved in commercial transport, with enormous trucks as high as several times the height of a normal person being used by companies to haul massive amounts of rocks and earth. Because of the immense size of the trucks, which can have tires as big as 12 feet, they are very hazardous pieces of machinery for drivers to operate.
Drivers of such haul trucks are required to have absolute focus and concentration on the task at hand while operating them, as even the slightest mistake could endanger their lives as well as the lives of other workers in mine sites. The round-the-clock operation of mine sites, however, presents driver fatigue as a crucial and very real problem, which is where facial recognition technology comes in.
Caterpillar Safety Services, which is a consultancy branch of the company, has teamed up with tech company Seeing Machines to deploy the technology in these massive trucks for the detection of fatigue among drivers.
The software installed in trucks utilizes a speaker, a camera and a light system to analyze any signs of fatigue on haul truck drivers, such as the position of their head and the closing of their eyes.
Whenever the system detects potential fatigue in the driver, the software sounds an alarm and forwards a video clip of the operator to a 24-hour command center for sleep fatigue in Caterpillar's Illinois headquarters. At this point, a safety advisor contacts the driver through radio and informs the site manager of the incident, with a possible intervention to follow such as giving the driver a much needed rest.
According to Caterpillar fatigue consultant Sal Angelone, the facial recognition system scans for signs of microsleep, which are the brief and involuntary periods of unconsciousness that tired drivers experience. The signals, however, are verified by Caterpillar's employees at their sleep fatigue center.
Caterpillar is only in the early implementation phase of the initiative, and is looking to expand it further to cover about 38,000 trucks that it has deployed globally.
The company is making headway into various forms of technology as it expands its heavy equipment business. In 2015, Caterpillar unveiled the Cat S40, which is a rugged mobile phone that is capable of withstanding various conditions such as high temperatures with drop and shock protection.