Technology originally developed at Australian National University will be available through global mining giant Caterpillar, after the US company signed a strategic agreement with Canberra-based Seeing Machines.
The innovation, which sells for about $10,000 a unit plus training and other costs, involves a unit the size of a laptop in the cabin of a mining vehicle, linked to cameras which monitor fatigue via head alignment and eye behaviour, which triggers a vibrating seat in the cabin and sounds an alarm.
Fairfax Media reports that Seeing Machines’ technology was developed through the ANU with Professor Alex Zelinsky and three of his PhD students, though commercialisation is slow. The company turned over $7.2 million last year.
The “multi-phase” approach by Caterpillar involves supply and support of SM’s Fatigue Monitoring System through its dealer network globally, and further stages including joint product development and licensing.
"The open-cut mine is a challenging environment and the application of this technology in such a critical area shows the value and robustness of the Seeing Machines systems,” said Kroeger in a statement.
After establishing eye-tracking as proven technology in the most difficult environments for this part of the mining industry, the next step is to establish its value in wider markets to protect drivers, workers and the public at large."
The technology is being developed with an unnamed automotive company in Detroit to extend its use into cars, and Seeing Machines also employs in Tucson, Arizona. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
"We firmly believe this will be as commonplace as the airbag in 10 or so years from now," Seeing Machines CEO Ken Kroeger told The Australian.
"That will support the launch of arguably the world's first available semi-autonomous passenger vehicle in 2016-17, and our technology will be in the vehicle to measure driver distraction," Kroger said of the Detroit operation.