Driver fatigue focus of new prototype developed by UTSA student team

Device uses machine learning to alert dispatchers of potential problems

A new University of Texas at San Antonio graduate hopes to one day bring a product to market that could help make roads safer.

SAN ANTONIO – A new University of Texas at San Antonio graduate hopes to one day bring a product to market that could help make roads safer.

It’s a device that detects fatigue in drivers and it drew top honors in entrepreneurship and start-up competitions at the university.

“The summer before we were going to start our idea pitching one of my classmates, my teammates had a brother who had an accident while driving late at night because he fell asleep,” said Cecilia Flores, who graduated with a degree in engineering from UTSA. “She was actually scared by how bad the accident was. That’s why she thought there’s a need from there.”

Flores is a co-founder of MECM Medical, MECM standing for Making Every Customer Matter. It aims to focus on solving medical problems in underserved populations. The MECM team came up with a prototype of the device, which uses machine learning to detect fatigue, monitoring things like eye or muscle movements. A dispatcher would be notified if fatigue is detected. Flores decided to focus on commercial drivers, whose already heavy workloads increased during the pandemic.

“Everyone else was at home, but who had to be working, delivering everything? It was the commercial transportation drivers,” Flores said. “You know, they were doing extra time. We did some research and found out their deliveries were three times their normal rate and their shifts are stretching up to 13 hours.”

The idea for the device won first place at UTSA’s Big Rowdy Idea competition in 2019. Flores is still working on perfecting the prototype and is hoping an investor or company will help bring the device to market soon. She said her experience at UTSA shows there is support for tech startups right here in San Antonio.

“All of them always demand the very best from you. They don’t consider where we are that we’re not an Ivy League,” Flores said. “What does that matter? What matters is you do your very best, you look for genuine problems and then you get real solutions.”

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About the Author:

Samuel King anchors traffic during GMSA and reports on transportation and mobility issues across the San Antonio region. He joined the KSAT 12 news team in 2020 from KUT in Austin. Samuel was born in Queens, spent time growing up in South Alabama and graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.