A Volvo VNR 300 equipped with Perceptive Automata’s artificial intelligence software is...

A Volvo VNR 300 equipped with Perceptive Automata’s artificial intelligence software is displayed at DHE headquarters in Ontario, California. 

Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

Volvo Trucks North America is working with a developer of predictive human behavior technology in order to fine-tune autonomous vehicle control systems. Recently, Volvo and Perceptive Automata, along with Dependable Highway Express, a West Coast-based LTL carrier, and Volvo customer, showcased a collaborative project designed to strengthen safety capabilities for the trucking industry through automation.

The project leveraged human-intuition artificial intelligence that "reads" the intention and awareness of vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, to enhance the situational awareness of truck drivers, according to VTNA.

Boston-based Perceptive Automata is a technology company that focuses solving one of the most challenging problems for automated vehicles: Understanding the state of mind of humans in the roadway environment. Its AI software ingests data from on-vehicle sensors and, like humans, assesses in real-time the likely intention and awareness of pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers by reading visual cues such as eye contact, posture, physical orientation, and head movements.

Increased safety is achieved through continuous 360-degree monitoring of human road users near the truck and, when warranted, signaling to the truck driver and on-board automated systems increased risk based on changes in human intention. This enables earlier preventive actions by the truck driver, supported by the truck’s automated systems, to reduce the likelihood of accidents and to help modulate the amount and severity of braking and acceleration.

Perceptive Automata's artificial intelligence system is able to track, in parallel and with a...

Perceptive Automata's artificial intelligence system is able to track, in parallel and with a 360-degree field of view, a practically unlimited number of pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles to enhance professional drivers' situational awareness.

Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

VTNA said it has recognized the critical need for improved safety for all road users, specifically in improving the ability of onboard computers to “learn” situational awareness and better anticipate human behavior while on the road.

To meet this need, the OEM said it has developed proof-of-concept software together with Perceptive Automata, which was successfully demonstrated at DHE headquarters in Ontario, California, recently. At the event, attendees experienced Perceptive Automata’s artificial intelligence software on a Volvo VNR 300 regional-haul model. Attendees also got to observe the AI in action during live drives.

“Safety is a core value at Volvo Trucks, and we continue to explore new and innovative ways to further enhance transportation safety, as well as improve driver support and comfort,” said Aravind Kailas, research and innovation manager at Volvo Group North America. “We are very proud of the collaboration with Perceptive Automata and DHE, who share our vision for increasing safety and have worked diligently over the last six to eight months to bring this project to life.”

“Advanced automation in trucking is an important application of our human behavior prediction technology, and we are excited to team with Volvo Trucks and DHE to demonstrate its impact on trucking safety,” said Sid Misra, CEO of Perceptive Automata. “Volvo Trucks’ culture of safety and DHE’s service excellence align with our vision for the future of automated trucking and advanced driver support, and this project showcased how automation technology can enhance the situational awareness of truck drivers to reduce cognitive load and driver fatigue, and, ultimately, safe lives.”

DHE's participation was integral to the project as it provided real-world data from its fleet operations to customize the AI software to its LTL application, VTNA noted.

“DHE’s quest for excellence in all areas, especially safety, is obvious as we specify all our Volvo truck models with every safety feature available from its factory,” said Joe Finney, COO of DHE. “We are excited to play a part in the research and development of this automation technology and the positive impact it can have in keeping everyone safer on the roads of the world.”

“Automation and driver support enhancements that help predict and prevent potential incidents will be essential to improving road safety now and in the future,” added Volvo's Kailas. “While we recognize highly automated processes progress gradually and over time, we have gained valuable information from this collaboration in a short period of time.”

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