Trucks at Work

A 360 degree “scanner” for trucks

Here’s an interesting concept: a 360 degree scanning system that warns the drivers of commercial vehicles if pedestrians or bicyclists are in any of the blind spots surrounding their trucks.

Sweden’s Volvo Trucks developed and is now in the midst of testing just such a system in Europe, with Carl Johan Almqvist – traffic and product safety director for the OEM – noting that this technology “works much like the human mind,” allowing trucks to “interpret” its environment and suggest actions to avoid any incidents.

“Unprotected road users such as pedestrians and cyclists are especially vulnerable in urban areas where a lot of large vehicles move around,” he explained.

“Now this technology enables a vehicle to ‘see’ its complete surroundings and feed information to the driver on how to avoid accidents … receiving information via sensors, radars and cameras placed around the vehicle,” Almqvist added. “And if the driver does not respond to the suggested actions, the steering or braking system can be activated autonomously.”

Bequeathed with a clunky moniker, the so-called “Non-Hit Car and Truck Project” originally began in September 2010 as a collaborative effort including the Volvo Car Corp., the ÅF Group, HiQ, Mecel and the Chalmers University of Technology.

Almqvist (seen at right) said the project will wrap up in December this year, with the results of the research conducted by Volvo Trucks allowing the OEM hopefully introduce a commercially available system for its trucks within five to 10 years.

“The main objective has been to develop technologies that reduce accident risks for both passenger cars and commercial vehicles, particularly focusing on situations in which today’s active safety systems are not sufficient,” he emphasized.

[This is a very big deal, especially on this side of the pond. Click here for a story from Boston to see what I mean.]

“In situations with heavy traffic it is easy for a [truck] driver to miss something important, such as an approaching cyclist on the vehicle’s passenger side,” Almqvist stressed. “Now with this technology we can solve this issue and help the driver see and understand everything that is happening around the vehicle.”

If this system works as tested, then it might become a very valuable aid to truck drivers, especially those operating in congested urban environments. We’ll need to wait at least half a decade to find out.

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