A variety of collision avoidance products exist in the marketplace, but unfortunately they have been slow finding their way onto trucks. The problem, according to the manufacturers of these systems, is convincing fleet managers to spend money on systems for which the savings are so difficult to quantify. “Just how do you calculate savings from an accident that never happened?” they ask.
Determining the real cost of an accident can also be tricky. Often fleets fail to take into account items like accident investigation costs, litigation, loss of work time, insurance, repairs or vehicle downtime.
Another problem is that since much of the technology is new, there aren't a lot of statistics available. What object-avoidance system makers do know is that fleets using these kinds of devices are reporting significantly fewer accidents. Eaton, manufacturer of the VORAD collision warning system, says it's been told by customers that the benefits build over time as data is gathered and actual numbers can be reported to insurance carriers as proof of accident reduction.
Obstacle detection systems are available in several forms based on different technologies:
Radar: Designed to help drivers maintain safe following distances, the Eaton VORAD system uses a radar sensor attached to the front of a truck to detect objects up to 500 ft. It provides both visual and audible alerts through a driver display unit mounted in the truck cab. SmartCruise, an adaptive cruise control feature, slows the truck down either by de-fueling the engine or firing the Jake Brake if necessary when the system's radar detects a vehicle in front moving at a slower rate of speed.
Also a part of the VORAD system is the Eaton Vehicle Management System (EVMS), which collects data concerning driver behavior and vehicle operation through an electronic control unit. In the case of an accident, data stored in the ECU during the last ten minutes prior to the accident can be extracted for accurate accident reconstruction.
Eaton has also just introduced a standalone side-sensor object detection product called BlindSpotter. This device can be retrofitted to any truck with or without the VORAD system and provides a 10 by 15-ft coverage area alongside a vehicle.
Last year Delphi released two new aftermarket products based on radar technology already successfully in use in over 300,000 OEM truck applications. The Forewarn Side Alert uses radar or infrared sensors to detect vehicles in an adjacent lane during a lane change. Forewarn Back-Up Aid helps drivers detect obstacles up to 16.4 ft. behind their truck.
Delphi also plans to release a rear-view camera system later this year. Early next year it will introduce a second-generation aftermarket radar product with expanded coverage area.
Ultrasonic: Grote has a rear-vision ultrasonic system that uses a sensor placed on the rear bumper to detect objects behind a truck through sound waves. Systems are available both for passenger car/light truck and heavy-duty truck applications. The system has three detection zones-7, 5 and 2 ft., as well as a 7-ft. detection width. For truck applications, two sensors can be used to expand the detection width out to 12 ft.
Grote says a self-check safety feature ensures the system is functioning properly. Each time the unit it turned on, for example, its internal self-check system checks all wires to see if they are hooked up correctly and there is no error in the programming. A driver knows the system is working properly if upon starting it up he/she hears two beeps and sees a green light in the display panel. Also, if there is a problem with a sensor, the unit will give him/her a constant tone and the LED lights on the sensor will flash on and off.
Flat sensor technology is also used with the Grote system, allowing for a 150-degree detection range on the horizontal plane, and 60 degrees on the vertical plane (30 degrees up and 30 degrees down). This allows drivers to aim the sensors at precisely the height they wish to start detecting objects. For example, construction workers would not want the sensors to pick up objects like rocks or small dirt mounds so they would angle the sensor to detect objects 2 ft. and higher off the ground. The system is wired into the truck's reverse lamp circuit so when the vehicle is put into reverse the object detection system goes on automatically.
Transportation Safety Technologies (TST), maker of the Eagle Eye ultrasonic-based detection system, says sits product is designed rugged enough to withstand harsh applications and last the life of a truck. Fleets can place up to seven sensors anywhere they choose on a vehicle. The sensors are networked together and information is presented to drivers on a display mounted in the cab.
In addition to giving an audible beep, the unit displays a diagram of the truck that indicates which sensor is activated and how far away the object is. Sensors are programmed to detect obstacles up to 10 ft. on the rear, 8 ft. on the side.
Another obstacle detection system based on ultrasonic technology is available from Sonar Safety Systems. Called Hindsight 20/20, this system provides both internal audible and visual warnings of moving and stationary obstacles behind a vehicle. The onboard display also tells drivers the distance of the obstacle from the truck.
Infrared: Bendix offers XVision, a system that uses infrared technology to restore daytime visibility to nighttime driving. The infrared senses differences in temperatures as small as 2/10ths of a degree F. so it can pick up even small animals on the road.
According to Bendix, XVision extends a driver's vision to 1,500 ft., versus just 300 ft. using the low beams and 500 ft. using high beams. The company says this translates into an additional 11 seconds of time the driver has to make a decision, such as whether to change lanes or slow a vehicle down.
The XVision system projects a ghost-like image of an object detected onto a flat panel screen that's mounted in the cab just slightly above or below eye-level so it does not hinder a driver's normal line of sight.
Camera Systems: Bendix also offers an integrated side and rear camera system that uses CCD video type cameras to assist drivers in detecting objects in those areas that are sometimes not visible using mirrors alone. The images are projected into the same display unit where drivers view images from the XVision system.
Intec Video Systems also offers a variety of black and white or color cameras for reducing blind-side and backing-up accidents. Models are available for installation on trucks of all sizes. The company says its high-resolution in-cab monitors provide screen sizes from 4.5 to 9 in. for easy viewing.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CIRCLE NUMBER ON REPLY CARD:
BENDIX COMMERCIAL VEHICLE
GROTE INDUSTRIES 316
INTEC VIDEO SYSTEMS 317
SAFETY VISION 318
SONAR SAFETY SYSTEMS 319
TECHNOLOGIES (TST) 320