How artificial intelligence is saving Kiwi truck drivers' lives

As the number of fatal crashes involving truck drivers increases, one company believes artificial intelligence (AI) could help.

It may look like a standard mini-tanker, but a small camera in the truck's cab could be a lifesaver.

The AI device scans the driver's eyes to detect signs of fatigue and distraction, and if their eye lids close for one and a half seconds, an alarm sounds and the driver's seat will vibrate.

A camera also records the moment.

"What this technology is about is keeping the driver focussed on the road, and alerting them for any reason if their attention is drawn away," said Charles Dawson, the chief executive of Autosense.

The technology, which Z Energy is currently using on 70 of its tankers, is designed to prevent fatal crashes resulting from fatigue.

The number of fatalities involving truck drivers has jumped from 49 in 2013 to 71 in 2017, with 25 of those crashes put down to diverted attention or fatigue.

"If you haven't had six hours of undisturbed sleep in a night, essentially the stats show you are four times over the legal limit of alcohol," said Mr Dawson.

The camera, alarm and vibrating seat system may already be saving Z Energy drivers' lives, but at the same time the Ministry of Transport has recognised there's a major issue around truck driver fatigue.

It too is working on a whole new road safety strategy.