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NZ tech firms RUSH and Downer to develop road safety AI
Wed, 11th Oct 2023

RUSH, a pioneering New Zealand technology company, and Downer Transport & Infrastructure, a leading provider of engineering and infrastructure services in Australia and New Zealand, have secured funding to develop an innovative artificial intelligence (AI) technology designed to increase safety on New Zealand roads. The technology, entitled "Guardian Angel", uses computer vision machine learning to understand and interpret visual information collected by Mobile AI Camera Units placed around traffic management sites.

Developed by RUSH and approved in collaboration with Downer in 2021, the R/VISION platform provides real-time alerts and risk assessments, predicting potential hazards and delivering critical insights to road crews. The technology aims to increase safety and minimise injuries for both workers and other road users.

RUSH Founder & CTO Danu Abeysuriya stated, "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."

Abeysuriya further explained the technology's vital role as a 'guardian angel' in this setting, stating that it allows workers to identify and respond to critical risks in real-time. These could include alerting road workers when a pedestrian enters a no-go zone or when oncoming traffic exceeds reduced speed limits.

The funds secured by RUSH and Downer were awarded as part of the second round of the Waka Kotahi Hoe ki angit - Innovation Fund, with funding exceeding $500,000. The fund aims to support the private and non-government sectors in developing innovative solutions to significant transport issues.

Abeysuriya said, "The funding we’ve been awarded through the Waka Kotahi Hoe ki angit 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."

Murray Robertson, Chief Operating Officer - Transport & Infrastructure, Downer Group, observed that integrating AI into operational safety is both exciting and long-overdue for the construction industry. He said, "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."

In conclusion, he stated that this integration would not only enhance safety, but also allow the collection of valuable on-site data, which could, in the future, "envisage 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."