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SmartDrive’s Palmer touts automated systems as key to preventing truck crashes

Photo: Josh Roden/FreightWaves

Pairing professional truck drivers’ skills behind the wheel with automated systems designed to help prevent crashes is a win-win for the trucking industry, says Jason Palmer, chief operating officer of SmartDrive Systems.

That was the message from Palmer during his presentation at Transparency 2019, a three-day freight technology event at the Georgia International Conference Center in Atlanta.

His company focuses on video-based safety and transportation intelligence designed to help truck drivers.

“The automated systems are constantly looking out for your safety and perform a specific function to help us improve our overall safety and be effective,” Palmer said.

SmartDrive, headquartered in San Diego, California, looks at the analytics and video collected in the trucks to help drivers improve their overall awareness in certain situations.

When you hear about autonomous driving, most people imagine driverless trucks going down the road. However, Palmer said his company’s primary focus is on Level 1 and Level 2 systems designed to help drivers behind the wheel.

In certain real-world situations, a radar system just can’t replace a driver’s set of eyes or knowledge of what’s ahead down the road.

“There is a tumbleweed in the road and while the driver knows it’s a tumbleweed, the radar system thinks that a four-foot object going down the road is coming straight at them,” he said. “And so this is where we have to take our understanding of what is happening in the real world and help translate it to these automated systems.”

The company has taken many real-world situations and then added them to its automated driving models.

“We change vehicles, change the speed, change the time of day and change a lot of the conditions and make those automated functions work that much better,” Palmer said.

SmartDrive conducted a study comparing 15,000 trucks that had active braking systems on them to those that didn’t have the equipment installed. The company operated the trucks in similar conditions and locations and found that 16.7 percent of the trucks with the active braking systems on them had over  60 percent fewer collisions.

“So we train the drivers and also inform the developers about what are the issues where we can improve our overall systems to make them more effective,” Palmer said.

Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected].