CMU, Volvo Seek Road Site Safety


Safety on road construction sites is a major concern, so two industry leaders partnered to come up with a solution that uses situational awareness of equipment operators and the surface workers around them.

Data from the Bureau of Labor statistics indicates that being struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment is the largest single event for fatal occupational industries, according to a press release from Integrated Innovation Institute.

Volvo Construction Equipment sponsored a project working with graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University’s Integrated Innovation Institute to develop a solution to reduce road construction injuries and fatalities.

What they came up with was a method to increase machine operators’ awareness of the crew working around them to avoid collisions and other incidents.

The system, named SiteAware, makes use of LIDAR, RFID technology, and cameras to give the equipment operators a 360-degree view of the activity around them.

Building the Solution

As part of their research the students worked with contractors, site managers and equipment operators to collect insights to pinpoint areas needing their attention. They determined their technology would need to:

  • Eliminate blind spots;
  • Provide real-time data positioning;
  • Deliver an alerting to operators and ground workers;
  • Be usable with just a short learning curve; and
  • Make use of real-time visualization to reduce false alarms.

The proposed SiteAware solution makes use of sensor stacks and “data fusion,” the process of integrating and aggregating data from multiple sensors, to create the real-time snapshot of nearby workers and equipment.

Integrated Innovation Institute

Sensor stacks on the equipment use LIDAR and camera systems to deliver an accurate, real-time representation of the work environment to machine operators.

Each sensor stack include three RGB cameras with a 130-degree field of view and one LIDAR unit with a 360-degree horizontal view and a 40-degree vertical view.

The ground crew wears personalized RFID tags that communicate back to the antenna on the equipment.

All of this data is interpreted onto a screen on the equipment operator’s dashboard, indicating the location of other people and objects in the immediate vicinity. Visual and audio warnings tell the machine operator when any worker is too close—even identifying the at-risk worker by name.

According to the team, name recognition was used to “cut through the noise” and be more likely to catch the operator’s attention.

Lights around the perimeter of the machine provide a clear indicator to workers and pedestrians to stay outside of the equipment’s zone.

The Future of Roadwork Safety?

Volvo CE expects to integrate ideas and concepts from the research into Volvo’s advanced engineering projects. according to the press release.

“The outcome of this project is proof of the power and value of collaborating with an academic institution that puts a premium on integrated innovation,” said Dr. Fares Beainy, research engineer in Emerging Technology for Volvo CE.

“We gave the students a simple mandate, without any restrictions or limitations: to design the road construction operator’s workplace, with an emphasis on safety,” he said. “The students developed new ideas in the process, brought forth improvements that will make an impact in the field.

“Ultimately, that means saving lives,” he added.

Volvo CE will publish the research results rather than pursue proprietary rights.

“We view this as a way to challenge our entire industry to reconsider how it thinks about safety,” said Beainy.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Construction; Education; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Health & Safety; Latin America; North America; Research and development; Roads/Highways; Safety equipment; Technology

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