The camera sees all: Phone usage, smoking in cab now trigger driver alerts

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Brian Straight

In-cab video monitoring continues to advance, and an Israeli-based computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) company is introducing software that allows it to provide real-time alerts for common in-cab distractions.

Eyesight Technologies announced the additions to its FleetSense software and video product on Nov. 21. With the updated solution, users of FleetSense, which utilizes an infrared (IR) sensor in the camera, can be notified if a driver is using a cellphone or smoking when driving.

FleetSense is a fatigue- and driver-monitoring system. It tracks the driver’s head pose, eyelids and eyes and, using AI, detects fatigue and levels of drowsiness and inattentiveness. Eyesight offers an operation feature that can recognize who is driving a vehicle at any given time.

“This IR sensor is designed to work in all lighting conditions [including complete darkness] to track facial features such as the head position, blink rate, eye openness and even the direction of gaze in order to define the state of the driver. Is the driver drowsy? Focused on the road or distracted?” Tal Krzypow, vice president of product for Eyesight, told FreightWaves. “On top of that, we have added new computer-vision capabilities that allow us to detect more than just the driver.”

These new detections include whether the driver is wearing a seat belt and if it is being worn correctly, if the driver is holding a cellphone and if the driver might be smoking. The software is advanced enough, Krzypow explained, to avoid false alerts.

“The system analyzes both the driver’s actions and the objects in view and should not generate a smoking alert in the case that a driver merely enjoys a candy,” he said. “However, if an object similar to a cigarette is handled in a manner similar to smoking, it may generate an alert.”

The AI has been programmed to recognize several styles of holding a cigarette for more accurate alerts. The ability to identify and monitor in-cab smoking is a critical safety element for certain freight segments, the company said, such as hazmat shipments involving oil and gas when smoking is illegal.

Eyesight cited a National Center for Biotechnology Information study that said 67% of long-haul truck drivers in the U.S. smoke.

Krzypow said that because FleetSense is software-based, fleets could potentially adjust alerts. “They can define that if the vehicle is stopped, smoking is allowed. They can also define the types of alerts that they want to receive or provide to the driver,” he said.

There are various levels of alerts as well, so drowsiness detection can generate a more critical alert than a smoking alert does.

The monitoring of cellphones reduces the potential for a distracted driving incident, the company said. According to the teen distracted driving organization TeenSafe, distracted driving is a factor in 80% of all accidents in the U.S. Cellphone use accounts for 25% of those. According to an AT&T survey, 43% of teens and 49% of adults admit to texting while driving.

Krzypow said there is no intrusion into the cellphone since the system uses AI and the camera to identify usage. Hands-free usage does not trigger alerts.

“The computer-vision technology detects what is in the field of view, so a hands-free device would not be detected,” he said. “However, as our solution already has the ability to detect distracted drivers, the system could provide an alert for general distraction if detected, but it would not be able to detect a hands-free phone outside the field of view.”

David Tolub, CEO of Eyesight Technologies, said, “There’s no greater distraction and danger on today’s road than mobile phones. The average driver doesn’t realize that looking down at your phone to check a text is six times more likely to result in an accident than driving under the influence of alcohol. Our first priority is the safety of all people on the road, and eliminating the distraction created by our cellphones is a huge step towards a much safer road.” 

Eyesight Technologies offers FleetSense and other driver safety solutions globally. The company has offices in Cupertino, Shenzhen, China, and Hong Kong.

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