Wednesday 23 August 2017

McAuliffe to share in driver-alert tech success

Business led by Cork-born ex-Powervation boss makes systems for latest jets and cars

Jaguar’s Driver Monitoring System is the result of a collaboration between Jaguar Land Rover, SeeingMachines and Intel
Jaguar’s Driver Monitoring System is the result of a collaboration between Jaguar Land Rover, SeeingMachines and Intel

John Reynolds

The former chief executive of University of Limerick spin-out Powervation is expected to take a small stake in London-listed driver-alert technology firm SeeingMachines, which he is now leading as ceo.

Mike McAuliffe became ceo of the Australia-headquartered business last month, and the company confirmed that he would be receiving a share-based reward package in due course. The University College Cork engineering graduate and Harvard Business School alumnus oversaw computer chip-maker Powervation's sale to Japanese electronic parts maker ROHM for €64m in 2015.

SeeingMachines' technology is being installed in Caterpillar mining vehicles, and some of the latest generation of planes and cars.

Its technology will be used in a General Motors Cadillac CT6 model being launched later this year in order to enable semi-autonomous driving, according to industry analysts, and will later be rolled out to certain Opel and Vauxhall models in Europe. The analysts suggested the firm may also be in talks with a number of German car manufacturers about using it in their latest models.

Unlike some technology, which requires drivers to put their hands on the steering wheel every so often to prove they are ready to take over the driving, the SeeingMachines technology monitors the driver's eyes, face and head movements through an infra-red camera on the steering wheel column. The maps used by the system also mean that it knows in advance where points on the road ahead are that may require a driver to take control, such as a toll booth.

It is understood the technology is also being installed in the latest generation of planes made by one of the big two global jet manufacturers in order to monitor pilot alertness - initially on a long-haul route, where fatigue can be an issue.

"The system can detect both fatigue and distraction. For instance, it would see if a driver was looking at their phone. While it is useful in cars' semi-autonomous systems, it's also important in the trucking industry, where drivers are on the road for long hours, driving long distances and fatigue is a significant issue," said McAuliffe, who is based in San Francisco.

"The in-cabin alerts escalate if the system doesn't detect a reaction from the driver, and the system can also send reports and analytics back to a base that monitors drivers. It can be used to help improve their health and wellness.

"The deal we've done with construction vehicle maker Caterpillar saw us develop a hardware system and then license the business to them, for which they paid us a considerable fee. We're their exclusive supplier worldwide, they've got a seat on our board and they are long-term industrial partners. The technology will be used in machinery used by several million people."

SeeingMachines, which is listed on London's Aim market, employs 180 people full-time, including many engineers and machine learning specialists. Headquartered in Canberra, it has offices in Detroit, Melbourne, Tucson and San Francisco and is opening another in Stuttgart, while also looking at Korea and Japan.

"I'm working 18-hour days, travelling a lot and it's clear that we've got the technical leadership and the right market opportunities to build a large global business," McAuliffe added.

Sunday Indo Business

Also in Business