CANBERRA, Australia, May 28 (UPI) -- U.S. heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar says it's installing a $10,000 Australian-developed system that can monitor drivers for fatigue in all its mining trucks.
The Fatigue Monitoring System from Seeing Machines of Canberra uses an infrared camera that can see through sunglasses and an image-processing computer to analyze the frequency, duration and speed of the driver's blinking to assess inattention and the probability of imminent "microsleeps," NewScientist.com reported Tuesday.
Seventy percent of accidents involving drivers of the three-story-high, 400-ton, open-pit mining trucks are said to involve fatigue.
If a driver appears distracted the system play an "eyes on the road" audio message, but if a microsleep is predicted the system sets off a strong seat vibration and a loud alarm that is "humanly impossible to sleep through," Seeing Machines Chief Executive Officer Ken Kroeger said.
In early tests, the system reduced incidents attributed to fatigue by 72 percent, he said.
Responding to concerns about subjecting employees to what amounts to workplace surveillance, Kroeger said mining firms that have tested the system have only retrained drivers experiencing microsleeps by ensuring they understand importance of a good night's sleep before a driving shift.
"It's not being used as a stick to fire people," he said, noting mining companies are already introducing annual medical checks to detect disorders such as sleep apnea that can induce daytime microsleeps.