Picture source: Volvo Trucks

Turning assistant: no more blind spots

Every truck driver fears the blind spot when turning right. New assistance systems such as the turning assistant for trucks improve safety and are set to prevent accidents.

Hazardous right turns

Trucks have serious dimensions: up to four meters high, nearly 20 meters long, and up to 40 tonnes in weight. And there are bigger versions around, too: the “long truck” – also known as the Gigaliner or EuroCombi – measures up to 25.25 meters in length. A whole system of mirrors supports the driver on the passenger side, consisting of the main mirror, wide-angle mirror and ramp mirror, but a residual risk still remains. An accident involving the giants of the road can put lives at risk. In 2018, according to the statistical yearbook on road accidents from the Federal Statistical Office, in Germany 54 pedestrians and 58 cyclists died in collisions with trucks over 3.5 tonnes that were turning right.

According to estimates by the German Insurers Accident Research (UDV), around half of the cyclists killed on the roads die in turning accidents. Urban traffic is especially unpredictable and demands the greatest concentration from drivers to cope with traffic lights, road signs, oncoming traffic, traffic from the side, pedestrians and cyclists. But now the turning assistants promise to help in these accident scenarios. They will make truck drivers aware of people and movable objects next to the vehicle’s right side, and issue a warning of a potential collision during the turn. At present there is no legal requirement to install such assistants in heavy-duty vehicles. These life-saving systems will become mandatory in trucks in 2024 – much too late, in the opinion of many critics. New long trucks, on the other hand, will have to have them from July 2020, and vehicles already on the roads two years later.

All-round view

At the heart of the turning assistant from Mercedes-Benz are two radar sensors fastened to the frame on the nearside in front of the truck’s rear axle. The system is designed so that it monitors the entire length of the vehicle combination, plus two meters at the front and up to two meters at the rear. That also helps the driver avoid collisions when turning left, if the right rear corner of the vehicle should swing out. In addition, the system works hand-in-hand with the MirrorCam from the suppliers Bosch and Mekra Lang, which has video sensors on the driver’s cab that replace the two large exterior mirrors. The high-resolution displays in the cab can therefore warn the driver of cyclists and pedestrians in good time. The display adjusts to the driving situation: during monotonous freeway driving, the camera looks further back, but in bustling urban traffic it takes in the widest possible angle. In the dark, contrast is enhanced to improve the limited vision. Without the classical exterior mirrors, the system also offers the aerodynamic benefit of reduced air resistance, which brings down fuel consumption.

MAN BirdView activates automatically, giving the driver a 360° bird’s-eye view of the vehicle’s immediate vicinity, including all blind spots. Four externally mounted HD cameras with fish-eye lenses transmit their pictures to a video display in real time. The video turning system – VAS for short – works with a 150° wide-angle camera that sends live images to the vehicle’s display on the dashboard or an additional monitor on the passenger side. Ultrasound sensors on the vehicle’s front and passenger side also detect every object in the immediate vicinity of the driver’s cab, and trigger a visual warning as soon as anyone is in the danger zone. Yet all of these solutions are only available “ex works.” Scania has developed its Side Defender, a retrofit solution. Its radar system is also suitable for older generations of trucks. Mobileye, Mekra, Luis Technology and Wühlhorst Fahrzeugbau also provide retrofitting solutions.