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AI 'Guardian Angel' Technology By RUSH And Downer Enhances Safety On New Zealand's Roads


Responding to the challenge of improving roadworks safety for workers and other road users, RUSH, a pioneering New Zealand technology company, and Downer’s Transport & Infrastructure business, a leading provider of engineering and infrastructure services in Australia and New Zealand, have been awarded funding in the second round of the Waka Kotahi Hoe ki angitū - Innovation Fund. This funding will support the continued to development of a groundbreaking AI technology that will act as a Guardian Angel for road crews around New Zealand and abroad.

Using the R/VISION platform developed by RUSH and piloted in collaboration with Downer in 2021, the project uses computer vision machine learning - a specialised field of artificial intelligence that trains computers to interpret and understand visual information from the world around them.

When used to monitor roadworks projects, Mobile AI Camera Units are placed around traffic management sites to monitor critical risks and alert workers to make real-time adjustments via alerts, predictive analytics and auto-risk assessments.

According to RUSH Founder & CTO Danu Abeysuriya, the project aims to keep road workers and road users safe at roadworks sites. According to Waka Kotahi, approximately 10 road workers or road users are killed and around 30 workers and users are seriously injured at temporary traffic management sites every year.

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“The driving force behind our previous pilot project was the urgent need to transform the landscape of roadworks safety in New Zealand. Working on or near roads and construction sites is a high-risk activity. Far too many workers and road users are killed or injured at road works sites and incidents have an annual cost exceeding $4 billion to the economy,” said Abeysuriya.

“We collaborated with Downer to build a use-case for our R/VISION platform that could be used to identify and alert road workers to critical risks, like when a pedestrian enters a no-go zone or oncoming traffic exceeds reduced speed limits. The technology acts as a guardian angel, supplementing human decision-making by providing workers with real-time data and predictive analytics crucial to making smart decisions that keep people safe.”

Recognising the potential of this innovation to improve safety in roadworks projects, RUSH and Downer won a successful bid for funding worth over $500,000 in the second round of the Waka Kotahi Hoe ki angitū - Innovation Fund. The fund aims to bolster the private and non-government sectors in creating and expediting innovative solutions that address substantial transport issues.

“The funding we’ve been awarded through the Waka Kotahi Hoe ki angitū Innovation Fund will be instrumental in helping us turn our pilot into a reality by enabling further research and development. Our aim is to make this technology accessible for the entire industry, not just at roadworks sites across the country but for a range of contractors, including small businesses and large infrastructure projects,” said Abeysuriya.

The integration of AI into operational safety is an exciting development for the construction industry which has long awaited fresh innovation, says Murray Robertson Chief Operating Officer - Transport & Infrastructure, Downer Group.

“We understand the inherent dangers associated with working in the road corridor. R/VISION has the potential to act as a crucial safety net, providing our teams with the right information to make informed decisions on-site. It doesn’t replace the importance of human judgment, but rather complements it as another valuable tool in our toolbox,” said Robertson.

“This is an exciting development for the infrastructure industry, which has long awaited fresh innovation. The integration of AI into construction safety is a noble goal that not only enhances safety but opens the door to collecting more valuable on-site data. In the future, we envision the potential for cameras to be widespread across our sites, effectively detecting critical information and building a comprehensive and accurate picture of activities across our construction sites.”

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