Study puts driver awareness systems to the test

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The first comprehensive study of the leading driver monitoring technology has been completed by LRSSB the organisation responsible for driving light rail safety.

By tracking driver attention, and responding when signs that alertness levels may be lowering, the systems are designed to provide additional safeguards against potential risks.

“We already know that light rail is one of the safest forms of public transport, but we can never be complacent,” said Sue Byrne at the Light Rail Safety and Standards Board.

“This wide-ranging research provides a solid foundation for the adoption of systems by tram operators around the country to further raise safety standards.”

Covering four systems that scored highest in an initial study, the research was carried out on behalf of UKTram and the LRSSB by light rail consultancy Ian Rowe Associates Ltd.

All the systems use technology that monitors the percentage of eyelid closure (PERCLOS) and facial recognition techniques to detect signs of symptoms of fatigue.

Ian Rowe, Director of IRAL, explained: “The systems were subjected to a range of conditions, including different driver heights, head positions, lighting levels, eye and head ware, and facial characteristics

“In total, we tested 5740 different individual scenarios, using three test subjects.”

“Simulation of an eight-hour night shift on a tram simulator following a period of forced extreme sleep deprivation was another key component of the work, designed to induce real sleep in the driver in a controlled environment so as to establish the relative reliability of each system.”

The research was initially commissioned by UKTram and the project was completed by the LRSSB as it builds on the work of the organisation’s safety steering group. The work follows recommendations in the Rail Accident Investigation Board report into the overturning of a tram in Croydon in 2016 which resulted in seven fatalities.

“As an industry, we have taken the recommendations of the RAIB on board and are actively working to put them into practice,” Steve Duckering continued. “With an increasing number of people travelling by tram each year, reducing the risk of another tragedy is – and will remain – the industry’s top priority.

“Through continued research into new technology the LRSSB aims to provide operators with all the facts they need to make an informed decision on the most appropriate systems for their network,” he added.