There is a safety arms race in progress. Advances in collision mitigation technology are being undermined by advances in personal technology that distract heavy-duty operators and people on the ground from noticing potentially dangerous situations.
Who knows what will happen in 2017, but we are hopeful that by the end of the year we will be closer to the time when man and machine are able to ensure every worker makes it home safely. When they do, we might be able to put a stop to—or at least slow down—the safety arms race.
At this stage in the evolution of technology, machines and equipment seem best adapted to dealing with the “knowns,” while humans are better with the “unknowns.” With the right object detection systems in place, a mining haul truck rumbling down a dusty roadway or a tractor trailer cruising down the freeway can avoid collisions and de-escalate the risk of damage to humans and/or property.
We recently worked on a customer success story with Equipe Geosolutions, a U.K.-based company that helps improve drilling rig safety. For Equipe Geosolutions, the goal of their object detection system was to remove the danger posed to workers by an exposed drill head spinning at 1,500 revolutions per minute. They didn’t want the PRECO system to only warn someone of potential danger; they wanted to remove the danger altogether.
So when the PreView Radar system detected a human presence within four feet (1.2 meters) of the spinning drill head, it shut the system down so fast that there was no chance the worker could come into contact with the drill.
In this instance, the object detection system took action instead of providing an active alert. But in many ways isn’t that why we use this technology—to respond to external information much faster and more appropriately than humans can? Just as we watch the unfolding drama between better object detection technology and more ways to be distracted, there is another issue going on, too.
This second issue is between the relentless march forward of technology that is proving itself to be much more capable than we mere mortals—and our willingness as humans to accept machine/equipment capability and allow these new innovations to continue driving safety forward. The only way to create a victimless construction site, roadway or mine site may very well be to keep people out of those situations in the first place.