SAFETY FOCUS: The winning team Augmented Intelligence celebrates after its win in the fatigueHACK contest.
SAFETY FOCUS: The winning team Augmented Intelligence celebrates after its win in the fatigueHACK contest. James Graham

High-tech wheel wins the race

IT was the talk of the conference in the build-up.

Eight teams made up of industry outsiders brainstorming innovative ways to combat the age-old issue of driver fatigue.

They huddled on the fringes of the main auditorium at Canberra's National Convention Centre in the build-up, testing, questioning, discarding, but always believing.

In the end, however, all the glory in the first conference fatigueHACK hackathon came down to a steering wheel.

Only, it wasn't the kind of wheel any of the delegates had seen, as spokesman Andrew Hammond for the winning team Augmented Intelligence explained in his winning pitch.

Sensors in the wheel measure the driver's ECG.

Mr Hammond said there was research that showed high-speed heart rate was a predictor of fatigue.

He said the wheel would prevent drivers from "pushing through unnecessarily, or they can stop earlier if there are better facilities available”.

The team, which said the technology would cost $100 per truck a month for an unlimited number of drivers, won $6000 from the Australian Trucking Association and event sponsor Teletrac Navman.

It also won coaching from the Canberra Innovation Network to progress the idea and planned to reinvest the prizemoney into research and development.

Teletrac Navman's solutions specialist Chris L'Ecluse, who acted as mentor to the eight teams in action, said he had the Augmented Intelligence line-up of entrepreneurs and health clinicians pegged as a frontrunner early in the competition.

Mr L'Ecluse said the simplicity of the wheel sidestepped the issue of incorporating the tech into wearables which had proven to be far from popular with drivers.

"The technology is already available, it's just marrying existing technologies,” he said.

"How that information gets from the steering wheel to the server is through a conduit with Teletrac Navman.

"So our tech is already installed in the vehicles, and that will display a warning on the screen to the driver saying, 'hey you're fatigued', or 'you need to see a doctor because we've identified some issues'.”

As impressive as the winning entry was, Mr L'Ecluse said the seven other concepts in the hackathon were all worthy of commendation.

"The winning entry was a standout but what I don't want to do is downplay the significance of the other entries,” he said.

"There was some fantastic ideas from the others too which from my perspective warrants further investigation, some of which are very easy to implement.”

They included the runner-up, a team from Canberra Institute of Technology that came up with a smartphone app

that helps drivers find and book rests in under-utilised land.

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