Since dazzling the judges with its heart rate monitor smart steering wheel at FatigueHACK earlier this year, winners Augmented Intelligence have been busy honing their craft and further developing their solution. We sat down with the team’s leader, Andrew Hammond, to find out what they’ve been up to, when we can expect to see a trial run and what plans they have in store for the future.
Q: What have Augmented Intelligence been working on since FatigueHACK?
We’ve essentially grabbed the truck by the wheel and progressed the technology immensely. We recently went out with the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and tested one of our prototypes on one its safety trucks. It went really well. It was good to finally install it on a truck, have a bit of a drive to see things working and how drivers interact with it.
Q: How have you developed the initial prototype since FatigueHACK?
We used a car steering wheel for the hackathon, so our sizing needed to change. After observing drivers’ behaviour, we made further refinements, so it could flexibly accommodate common driving actions and habits. For instance, the initial mock-up was designed with drivers having both hands on the wheel, but often they need to turn a corner, adjust something or put their indicator on. Another driver told us that restricting the wheel tracking to a 10-2 position wasn’t the most practical idea.
We realised there’re many ways a driver uses a steering wheel, so our current solution would not track data effectively. Our next prototype will have a larger tracking pad so that it captures stats wherever a driver’s hands sit on the wheel.
Q: When can we expect to see a trial for the smart steering wheel?
Once construction for our latest prototype is complete and we lock down some industry partners. We’re talking to some organisations about more extensive trials to capture data. While the smart steering wheel is the device that captures the data, the actual smarts will be done once the data has been collected. With industry partners coming on and capturing driver ECG (electrocardiography) for different states of wellbeing, we will build a profile of fatigued driver versus a non-fatigued driver one.
We’re aiming for some time before the end of this year with up to 100 trucks participating in the trial. Until we have proper backing from industry partners we won’t have a definitive number for the rollout.
We’re keen to progress and we’ll be at 2018 ALC and ATA Supply Chain Safety and Compliance Summit later this year to present and talk to potential industry partners.
Q: Has the solution received any support from the tech industry?
Absolutely, as part of our winnings we’ve begun work with the Canberra Innovation Network who have been incredibly supportive. During the hackathon we touched on some of the courses run by the Innovation Network but, due to nature of the hackathon, these were condensed from a half day course into half an hour crash course! So, it’s been good for our guys to go back and participate in the course to get the full experience.
We’ve also been doing a lot of work with our IT partners at Intel who are responsible for all the computing power we need to do in the analysis portion of the solution. Intel are doing a lot of cool stuff in the health space, so it’s been exciting to work with them.
Q: And what about support from the trucking industry?
We’re very keen for people to come on board in any way shape or form. Because we weren’t in the trucking industry previously, things that are a no-brainer for a truckie are not as immediately obvious to us. Through our partnerships with the ATA and Teletrac Navman we’re learning about the industry more and more so that we’re not just a couple of tech guys playing with trucks.
Mostly everyone has been really encouraging and supportive as we go through the product lifecycle of developing this solution. We’re more than happy to hear about any limitations so we can address them and make a better product.
We don’t have all the answers or experience, so we’re ready and looking forward to finding people in the industry to help us out.
Q: Since the solution has healthcare elements, how is that industry involved?
Gold Coast University Hospital are working with us on the clinical side, particularly its Head of Innovation who provides expert ECG analysis. Once we’ve captured the data, they can determine if that ECG is representative of a person who is fatigued or help us to build a baseline of a typical driver. Any part of the solution that has a medical impact, we’ll be talking to those guys.
There’s also an organisation called IntelliHQ which does a lot of work in the health industry using artificial intelligence and machine learning. These technologies can predict patient outcomes from different indicators. It’s been a big help with the development of our solution.
Q: Why do you think this solution will be a success?
The solution is very easy to relate to. People heavily associate the steering wheel with a truck’s internals and are generally familiar with heart-rate monitoring technology from things such as the gym. This combination makes it easy for users to understand the technology and what we’re proposing to do with it.
The other point is the price. While we haven’t finalised anything, our premise from the get-go was that cost shouldn’t be an issue. We want this solution to be in as many trucks as possible and an essential expense for any business. Just as we wouldn’t get in a car without our mobile phone, we want this solution to become a crucial part of a truck.
The biggest reason we think it resonates with drivers is that it doesn’t impose on them too much. Essentially it removes friction. Just as Uber made it easier to book a ride and not have to worry about haggling prices or if you’ll be taken the wrong way. The driver gets in the truck as normal and the solution takes care of the rest. We don’t ask for anything more and that resonates with the community.
Q: Where do you see this solution in the long term?
Our goal is to have a positive impact on fatigue related incidents. If we can put our technology in just a single truck and that driver is able to operate without any incidents, then that’s a huge win. We think there’s going to be a 10-15-year horizon for the technology. People are talking about driverless trucks, but from the research we’ve done and talking to industry professionals, that technology is a way off from becoming the norm. So, in the meantime there needs to be solutions like ours to help keep people as safe as possible.
Most of all, we want to use our technology to improve people’s lives, that may sound a bit corny but that’s what we’re hoping to achieve.