Desperate to find a way to reduce driving distractions in his fleet, specialized road and rail maintenance, Loram turned to an AI startup powered by deep learning and computer vision technology.
Safety is a big issue in the world of truck driving. A typical fleet driver has an average of 4.5 accidents per year, according to a 2022 survey by trucking fleet software provider GPS Insight.
And with a fleet of approximately 500 trucks in North America, Loram truckers drive a total of 14,000 miles a day and about 9.4 million miles a year. That adds up to a lot of accidents.
Nauto’s AI technology
After exploring about a dozen systems that could help Loram drivers, Graham Rose, Loram Vehicle Fleet Manager, decided to give Nauto a try. The Palo Alto-based vendor, founded in 2015, has received investments from General Motors Ventures and BMW i Ventures.
“They were the only ones at the time with facial recognition and distracted driving,” Rose said. “All the other cameras were able to detect some violations, but their main features did not include distracted driving.”
For customers like Loram, Nauto installs a small camera device that uses computer vision to see what’s happening on the road and what the driver is doing. The camera doesn’t record every moment of driving activity, but only the 30 seconds or so of a collision or traffic violation, according to CEO Stefan Heck.
The device also measures the probability of a collision when drivers are distracted or following too closely and voice coaches when the probability of a collision is greater than 30 percent. When the Nauto device detects an incoming collision, it sounds an alarm.
The Nauto system also produces a visual enhancement risk assessment score to let drivers know how they’re doing.
the pilot program
Loram began working with Nauto in 2018. Since then, the Hamel, Minnesota-based road and rail maintenance company has reduced at-fault accidents by 79% and changed drivers’ driving behavior, according to Rose.
“It’s significantly decreased our tracking, our use of cell phones,” he said. “Our guys go hands-free and don’t pick up their cell phones and get distracted when they drive.” Drivers are also using their seat belts more, he added.
While some of Loram’s veteran drivers, who have been in the business for about 30 years, are still unsure about having a camera device with facial recognition capabilities in their truck, most of their drivers enjoy Nauto for its protective value, according to the company.
At first, drivers were told that managers are not monitoring their every move despite the camera. However, managers can go back and get pictures of what is happening at a particular moment in case there is an accident and violation.
“We use it as a tool that when it detects a violation or it detects a training moment, that’s when we go in and look at the footage,” Rose said. Camera footage can also defend drivers against inaccurate claims of guilt.
The vendor’s AI technology has made drivers more aware of the dangers of distracted driving and the distance their trucks have traveled during innocuous moments, such as having a cup of coffee.
“It’s been easy to support the AI side because when you dissect the videos, you dissect the time frame, you dissect the speed, it always helps them get better,” Rose said. “It’s always pointing out things you might not see without that data.”
rose grahamVehicle Fleet Manager, Loram
The facial recognition feature also allows Loram to keep track of which driver is driving which vehicle in the event of a truck being damaged.
One problem Nauto and Loram are currently solving is getting the device to recognize whether drivers of high-rail trucks, which travel on both highways and rail, are doing their jobs. The system thinks drivers are distracted because they are working on the rail and not driving the vehicle. The companies want the device to make an exception in those cases, Rose said.
Nauto works not only with commercial fleets, but also with car and truck manufacturers. He charges $400 for his device. The AI provider also charges between $300 and $500 per vehicle annually for businesses that use its features and services. Its competitors include LeddarTech, Nexar and UISEE Technology.