For years governments and the freight industry have tried to ensure that drivers stick to working time rules. After all, it’s important that someone driving a 20+ Ton vehicle has full and unimpaired mental capacity. However, drivers have constantly found ways to overcome tachographs to give them extra driving time. It is somewhat understandable. If I could drive an extra hour in order to make a ferry that gets me home rather than parking up at a truck stop, I know what I’d prefer to do.
Original analog, paper, tachographs were notoriously easy to overcome. So legislation moved to enforce the use of digital tachos. But even they could be fudged using something as simple as a magnet. The most recent ones are harder to tamper with, but not impossible. Drivers will go as far as to install manipulated pulse generators that with the click of a button on a remote control, will override the speed signals coming to the tacho so that the unit thinks the vehicle is stationary rather than moving. Known in the industry as the ‘Hungarian Method’, it can carry stiff penalties for the driver and the company in question.
A Better Way
The reality is that tachographs are a hangover from an era before technology could offer a better and more robust solution. But let’s ignore the issue of tampering, which is becoming less common. Let’s also not forget the many millions of commercial vehicles on the road that don’t use tachographs. So rather let’s look at the physical aspects of the issue.
Humans are fallible. We are not robots, so our performance can be affected. A bad night’s sleep, illness and stress can cause us to feel fatigued to the point of not being fit to drive. Yet a driver presenting themselves for work after a sleepless night is basically seen as ‘fit to drive’. If they are driving a vehicle with a tacho, it’s set to zero and they can now drive for hours before needing to take a break.
But what if there could be a system that gives both an early warning and a critical warning if fatigue sets in?
This article investigates how the mobile detection system works and the key benefits of implementing it in your fleet.
The main element of the fatigue detection system is the driver-facing infra-red camera. This special camera is mounted in a specific point on the dash that gives it a full view of the driver's face and head, but does not impede their view of the road.
The Infra-red camera creates a high-contrast image that is sent to main ADAS unit to process in real-time. The camera has a very narrow view that focuses solely on the driver's face, with a little margin that allows for their head movement. This minimizes intrusion into their work space.
The processing unit scans the video feed and looks for 2 things:
Mouth Forming A Yawn Shape
If the driver yawns, the system detects this and issues an ‘early warning’. Often drivers yawn without even being aware that fatigue is setting in. If they receive repeated warnings, they are more likely to take a break before they make a critical mistake.
Eyes Closing Or Head Dropping
The unit locks onto the irises of the eyes. If the driver’s eyes close, or their head drops, the system loses eye lock and then issues a critical and loud verbal alert.
HOW IT WORKS
As outlined above, a yawn, eyes closing or head dropping will cause a verbal alert to be issued to the driver (as shown in the videos below). These warnings can avoid the issue of a driver falling asleep at the wheel and having a serious accident. However, the most interesting aspect for fleet managers is the ability to receive alerts when one of these warnings is triggered. This is enabled when the ADAS system is installed in conjunction with the CameraMatics system. This means that the fleet manager can ignore 1 or 2 yawn alerts, but if they receive multiple yawn alerts from the same driver, they can then call to make sure the driver is OK and happy to continue. A critical eyes closed alert would require immediate attention.
Additionally, the related video is also recorded for each alert. This means there is a visual record that can confirm the alert. It also allows the fleet manager to monitor drivers' performance in real-time and take appropriate action, which may include training or similar actions.