Only 10% of all road and rail accidents are the consequence of mechanical issues. Two key aggravating factors impact the ability of operators to drive safely: fatigue and illnesses resulting in reduced cognitive awareness, or loss of consciousness.

In 2017, 10 people were injured when a bus driver lost consciousness at the wheel in London. In 2016, 7 people were killed when a tram driver had a micro-sleep at the Sandilands Junction. In 2014, 6 people were killed when a bin lorry driver lost consciousness at the wheel in Glasgow.

As part of a range of actions to reinforce even further the safety measures implemented across public sector vehicles (bus, bin lorries, tram, etc.), Edinburgh Trams and its partners Transport for Edinburgh (TfE) and UK Tram aim to reduce and mitigate the likelihood of fatigue and health-related incidents.

The DISC approach is not to be reactive (i.e. stopping the vehicle after a loss of consciousness), but pre-emptive: DISC aims to support the development of a solution able to capture early-signs of loss of focus, consciousness/alertness/paralysis, or similar, in order to mitigate or prevent incidents before they occur.

A market analysis was implemented in 2017 to estimate the capabilities of the market to deliver such a solution.  Findings included that no single company was equipped to propose a solution pre-emptively monitoring the risk of both fatigue and health-related incidents. As such, the DISC has been structured as an innovation project aiming to foster R&D partnerships with universities and companies, and test the solutions created.

The project is supported by the CAN DO Innovation Challenge Fund and UK Tram.

DISC is expected to lead to the development of a consolidated solution, which can monitor and analyse drivers/’operators’/mobile workers’ biometrics so that the early signs of loss of consciousness, due to fatigue or a health condition, in an operator in charge of a vehicle or machinery, or a mobile worker, can be picked up immediately and appropriate interventions made by the control centre.

 In terms of fatigue, we include both micro-sleep detection and focus-level evaluation, and the prediction of both the levels of fatigue and the risk of micro-sleeps throughout the duration of a shift ;

 In terms of common health conditions that may lead to unconsciousness, the Project is not prescriptive regarding the range of acute or chronic disturbance/incidence monitored which may lead to a reduction in the ability of an operator, or mobile worker, to manage a vehicle or machine safely. The DISC solution is not required to be a medical grade device and is not expected to lead to a diagnosis, but instead raise an alert if the driver has a reduced capability to operate the vehicle safely.

A Red/Amber/Green alert scoring methodology reflecting the risks will be developed.

If a sufficiently “high risk” profile or incident is detected, it is anticipated that an appropriate message/alarm will be displayed both to the operator/mobile worker and to the control room, allowing for a timely intervention to be taken.

The solution is expected to include reporting capabilities enabling operators to understand better their health and fatigue levels and discuss with their management how to best guarantee their safety: while service management will only have access to generic overall RAG alerts, operators will have access to the full range of the biometrics monitored and will be able to share them with their GP or occupational health.

Provided the DISC R&D is successful, a framework agreement including the following organisations will be created: Edinburgh Trams Ltd, Lothian Buses PLC, Transport for London, Nottingham Trams Limited, West Midlands Combined Authority, South Yorkshire Supertram Ltd, North East Combined Authority, Transport for Greater Manchester, Blackpool Transport Services Ltd, City of Edinburgh Council.