New 2020 Traffic Safety Results

According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the pedestrian fatality rate skyrocketed 21% in 2020 – the largest ever annual increase in the pedestrian death rate since data capture began in 1975.

This increase is especially concerning, considering miles traveled on the roadways were down 13.2% from 2019. The GHSA’s analysis found that the cause of this increase is predominantly due to “dangerous driving behaviors — speeding, impaired driving, and distraction — which were widespread on U.S. roads during the pandemic.”

Read More: 2020 is Year of Most Pedestrian Fatalities Ever

Although travel decreased by more than 13% in 2020, traffic fatalities dramatically rose 7.2% from 2019, bringing the total number of lives lost to 38,680 — the highest number of lost lives since 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA).

With roads essentially free and clear of traffic from the early stages through the peak of the pandemic, the National Safety Council, GHSA, and other safety advocates point to an increase in risky driving behaviors as the cause — which motorists have confirmed themselves.

Read More: Traffic Fatalities Skyrocket to 13-Year High in 2020

After the staggering increase in road fatalities in 2020, the GHSA and other State Highway Safety Offices (SHSO) are working together this year to spearhead road safety initiatives in anticipation of increased summer travel.

According to AAA, an estimated 34 million Americans took road trips over this past Memorial Day weekend — a 52% increase over last year.

Read More: State Highway Safety Offices Step Up Roadway Safety Programs

According to a new survey conducted by State Farm, “Nine out of 10 motorists (89%) said they engaged in at least one of 14 distracted driving behaviors that involved the use of their phone while behind the wheel.” Of the 89% of drivers who engage in distracting behaviors, the survey found that those under age 40 were more likely to say they engaged in any of the 14 distracted behaviors studied.

It is important to note that 36% of drivers update their social media while behind the wheel, 32% take photos, 30% record videos, and 28% play games.

Read More: Nearly 90% of Drivers Fiddle with Phones Behind the Wheel

Photo Courtesy of State Farm

High Tech Giant Brings Business and Innovation to Idaho

Showcasing many of the companies that are starting, growing, and thriving in Idaho, PRECO Electronics, a Sensata Technologies company, was featured in Idaho’s 2020 Deal Flow Report due to the substantial impact this high tech giant will have on the state. 

The Deal Flow Report presents capital flow throughout the state, highlighting businesses, capital providers, and supporting organizations. In its seventh annual report, the 2020 data collected shows the resilience of the Idaho economy (151 deals with over $5.2 billion of capital flow in 2020) and the adaptability of local entrepreneurs. Thus, confirming that Idaho continues to experience rapid growth and is one of the best places in the country to live and grow a business. 

In addition to the featured highlight of Sensata Technologies’ acquisition of PRECO Electronics in Idaho’s 2020 Deal Flow Report, Jim Bean, head of PRECO for more than 23 years, was an  honored Capital Connect Series guest.  

In his interview, Jim Bean touched on why the merger worked out so positively for PRECO and how it is to bring PRECO to the next level: 

“Sensata is an amazing company, and they have been around for more than 100 years. They are in the sensor technology business, and they have excellent relationships with the same customer base that PRECO has. Anyone we do business with, whether Daimler, Paccar, Caterpillar, or John Deere, all know Sensata. You can’t walk around today without interacting with some product Sensata has developed, tire pressure sensors on your car, they are amazing in terms of their breadth. And so, what they have done is come in, buy a small company in Boise, Idaho, and taken their brand, size, and ability to make markets move and brought us to the table.”

With the backing of a leading $3B industrial technology company, PRECO’s future includes expanding its core markets. It will target new sectors that complement PRECO’s existing solutions for heavy-duty OEMs, end-users, fleet operators, and foreign and domestic authorities. PRECO now has the scalability and resources to grow and serve its current customers better than ever.  

“We built the organization until we hit the sealing, and Sensata turned that sealing into the floor.” 

According to Jeff Cote, CEO and President of Sensata, Sensata is confident that together, the companies will capitalize on the many growth opportunities on the horizon as both strengthen their go-to-market capabilities and build on PRECO’s global reputation. 

Now, PRECO and Sensata will work together as one of the latest high-tech companies playing their part in helping Idaho evolve and significantly impact its economy and boost its position as a high-tech state. 

PRECO Electronics, a Sensata Technologies company, thanks to the Idaho Technology Council and all its volunteers and organizers for contributing to the 2020 Idaho Deal Flow Report. Together, they created a reliable resource that summarizes Idaho’s trends in business activities and areas with room for improvement. 

Safety Matters – SWANA’s 2020 Report Reveals Need for Improvement

Working in the solid waste industry continues to be a very dangerous job, as the industry was involved in more than 120 fatal incidents in the United States and Canada last year. At its virtual Safety Summit in late February, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) reported that 52 municipal solid waste industry workers were killed on-the-job in 2020, with nearly 70 percent occurring during collection.

The most common type of fatal event was a single vehicle accident in which only a waste collection vehicle was involved. The second most common fatality was being struck by a waste collection vehicle, either as a helper or when a driver was out of the cab. This suggests that rushing may be contributing to these tragic incidents, and that reminding collection crews of best practices for safety is needed.

This frequency of fatal incidents involving collection workers and trucks has continued unabated into 2021, with about 30 fatal incidents recorded in the first three months of the year.

Collection fatalities remained steady in 2020 compared to 2019 and were down from 2018 when 42 occurred. Fatal incidents at landfills fell from 11 in 2019 to 4 in 2020, and material recovery facilities (MRFs) similarly saw a drop in worker deaths from 4 in 2019 to 1 last year. Fatalities at transfer stations increased from 1 in 2019 to 3 in 2020. 

In addition to worker fatalities, SWANA tracks events in which a member of the public is killed in a solid waste related incident. In 2020, 76 members of the public in the United States and Canada were killed in collisions with a solid waste collection vehicle, with about 62 percent being vehicle collisions. The past year saw slightly fewer fatalities than 2019 when there were 80 and continues the decline from 2018 when 101 members of the public died.

View interactive Google Map here.

At the state level, New York had the most fatal incidents with 15, followed by California with 12, Texas with 11, Pennsylvania with 9, and Florida with 8. New York and California have both been in the top five states in number of fatalities for the past three years.

To reduce fatal and non-fatal incidents across the solid waste industry, SWANA has developed a growing variety of safety resources. SWANA’s latest addition is a weekly newsletter, Safety Matters, which makes relevant safety guidance easily accessible to front-line employees and workers at all levels. SWANA encourages members to use it at safety meetings and toolbox talks to remind workers of safety hazards associated with solid waste management and how to avoid them. If you are interested in receiving Safety Matters, or if your company is interested in advertising in the SWANA safety newsletter, please contact David Biderman, SWANA’s Executive Director, at dbiderman@swana.org.

Equipment manufacturers can play a critical role in improving the industry’s safety record. They do this by making the trucks and components safer, and by communicating the importance of safety on a regular basis to their solid waste customers.

SWANA will be holding another Safety Summit in early November in Orlando, Florida, in conjunction with WASTECON. For more information about the Safety Summit, contact Jesse Maxwell at jmaxwell@swana.org

To learn more about SWANA’s Safety Initiatives, visit https://swana.org/initiatives/safety.

Spot the Difference: Distraction Versus Useful Information

When humans don’t give their full attention to the task at hand, they miss deadlines, fail certifications, and collide with objects or other drivers. In an age of constant digital interruptions, it is no wonder humans have trouble ignoring distractions. The human brain does not possess the ability to pay attention to everything going on in the cab and the environment surrounding heavy-duty mobile machinery; the brain must choose where to focus.

As demands for mobile machine safety and higher levels of autonomous equipment push for more advanced perception systems, there continues to be an increasing emphasis on diversifying sensor sets to include multiple technologies such as Radar, Camera Monitoring Systems (CMS), LiDAR, and GPS to provide better resolution. However, with the ever-expanding amount of information now readily available in the cab, manufacturers and end-users must work together to find a balance in this flow of data to safely keep equipment operators’ attention on the task at hand.

When operators seem to give in to distractions, how can the latest technologies aid the brain to ensure operations run smoothly? Today, OEMs can leverage this biological limitation as an advantage by using powerful, innovative tools to turn “distractions” into useful information. Through a filtering process, systems can now prioritize the information and messages provided by purpose-built sensor technology to serve operators and end-users better.

Computers on Wheels – If It Can Be Sensed, It Can Be Monitored

You may have heard before that the modern truck is essentially a computer on wheels. Today’s fleets can be described as computers on wheels, using more than 400 sensors with lines of code in the millions. And as the drive towards improving operational safety and maximizing efficiency, not to mention autonomous vehicles, the numbers are only growing.

Heavy-duty equipment today can monitor everything from vehicle location, to sensing approximate load weight, to selecting the appropriate transmission gear for performance and fuel economy. Essentially, if it can be sensed, it can be monitored.

In order to communicate useful information to a driver or technician, these sensors must work as part of a larger system. Sensors collect data, and that data is then transmitted to the larger system via the CAN bus. However, the CAN bus is only a tool for communication. It operates sort of like a telephone, connecting electronic control units (ECU) and allowing them to communicate, but not providing the “language” for them to talk to each other. 

Most of today’s commercial vehicles use the Society of Engineers (SAE) protocol J1939. J1939 is a standardized language across ECUs, meaning that instead of relying on manufacturer-specific protocols (or languages), all the ECUs in a vehicle communicate using one language. That standardization is important because it streamlines communication and enables in-vehicle connectivity and advanced telematics.                    

As technology evolves, sensors are being tasked with providing an increasingly complex and accurate perception system. For full-automation, and for the system to understand maintenance needs, perception systems and ‘similar’ technologies are needed — combining multiple sensor systems to offset deficiencies is key, and redundancy within sensor fusion, combining sensor systems with other technologies to improve system performance is essential.

An important aspect of any technology is the ability to cut through the noise and deliver only information that is meaningful and actionable. Not every audible alarm or flash on the visual display represents an event delivered or incident avoided; and that’s why separating useful information from the distracting information, like false-positive alerts or even positive-positive alerts, have to be thoroughly tested, vetted, and proven useful.

Sensor and Display Distractions 

Each year the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) invests 41 million euros in road safety research carried out by the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt). In 2021, BASt published a long-term study assessing the viability of “Camera-Monitor Systems (CMS) as a Source for Driver Information,” as well as an assessment of assistance safety systems in the context of human-machine interactions (HMI). 

To examine the effect of “continuously assisting driving functions” in the context of human-machine interactions (HMI) in particular, BASt developed an evaluation tool. Using this instrument, their scientists have observed and evaluated comprehensive and standardized systems from various manufacturers concerning HMI (i.e., the interaction behavior between the driver and the system in test scenarios).

In the study, researchers noted the “initial accidents involving vehicles with these systems in the USA indicate that drivers are having difficulty understanding the systems fully and behaving correctly. The particular complexity lies in the fact that drivers have to monitor functions instead of performing them themselves. This fundamentally changes the perception of the driver’s role. Permanent monitoring is less successful if drivers are not actively involved” (BASt, HMI Assessment of Safety).

After assessing camera systems compared to or in conjunction with mirrors, the BASt study concluded that a CMS “would currently be suitable for use in road traffic under certain conditions, but these conditions are still too restrictive. This includes, for example, the high light sensitivity, which makes driving in the dark with bright light sources in rear traffic or in low sunlight difficult to impossible.”

Vision systems have become a critical part of heavy equipment safety. Currently, many OEMs are offering rear visibility cameras to help companies avoid unnecessary accidents and potential litigation. However, this technology is a passive approach to collision avoidance; CMS requires the equipment operator’s attention, putting the operator’s responsibility to identify an obstacle or person.

However, it is essential to note the BASt study added that CMS has the potential to offer a safe alternative to conventional exterior mirrors and that by combining “the advantages of an integrated display of the right and left sides of the driver’s own vehicle with a positioning of the system close to the visual axis. The situation can thus be quickly grasped with a few glances.”

Although it’s clear that CMS, and even mirrors, can distract drivers from the task at hand, they have the potential to offer useful information. Alone, cameras can recognize objects, while Radar is handy for determining an object’s distance and relative motion. By fusing vision systems with active radar technology, such as PreView® Radar, information from both technologies is used to identify a person, the distance to that person, and the relative motion of both — which neither can do alone. Therefore, one of the most common sensor fusion developments is combining CMS with radar.

It’s Not Only False-Positives, But Positive-Positives

A conventional sensor-rich system can detect objects, do primary classification, alert the operator to hazardous road conditions, and sometimes move, slow down, or even stop vehicles. If done well, this form of assistance can provide a welcomed sense of convenience and safety, allowing the operator to feel more confident.

However, while operating heavy-duty machinery with systems that alert the operator to every object within range of the sensor – nuisance alerts or false positives – have been seen even to push some of the most experienced operators to turn the system off eventually. This action then inadvertently prevents the operator from receiving and reacting to positive positives and placing them in danger of colliding with an object.

Often, we have seen systems such as these being ultimately turned off or ignored altogether, permeating an already dangerous situation, which is why, in the on-road system, operators typically only want to be alerted to moving objects, especially those moving towards the vehicle.

Understanding this struggle, our engineers sought to create a solution intelligent enough to understand the difference between a high-level threat and a non-threat. When a heavy machine is in use, the operator needs to be aware of their surroundings, especially where they cannot see. That may seem obvious, but there has been a lag in engineering technology that can solve this issue effectively until now. The importance of differentiating between stationary and moving objects to avoid nuisance and false-positive alerts has been the force driving the engineering behind PreView’s systems.

For example, the PreView Side Defender®II system’s audible alert is activated by the turn signal. So, when the operator’s in route, this, in turn, makes the audible alert live, providing an audible and visual alert to warn the operator if the radar detects an object(s) in the blind spot. The radar will not give off nuisance alerts because the system will only provide visual alerts, and only when the turn signal is used will the system audibly alert the operator if an evasive maneuver is needed.

Issues With Overreliance

As vehicle automation advances, companies look to revolutionize the way we travel entirely, and for the most part, eliminate the highest risk component, the human operator, which is still in control of most vehicle operating functions. This human component is referred to as “Human Factors,” which is defined as the science dealing with the application of information on physical and psychological characteristics to the design and systems for human use.

This focus on advanced vehicle technology is to ultimately compensate for human limitations with the goal of safety and efficiency in mind. Vehicle systems such as Lane Departure Warnings, Automatic Braking, and Blind Spot Detection have considered these human limitations, and in some instances, take the human out of the equation. However, as the industries seek to radically change the overall safety of vehicle operation and safety, there are lessons to be learned from the past.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the aviation industry began to automate flight systems to substantially reduce the incidence of human error to increase safety and efficiency. This soon came with one major downfall: the over-reliance on automation and these systems to consistently perform as engineered had catastrophic outcomes. This “over-reliance” on these systems degraded pilot skills over time and created severe confirmation bias instances.

One such example occurred on June 1, 2009, when an Air France flight (#447) departed Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, en route to Paris, and while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the aircraft encountered severe weather conditions. Unfortunately, the icy weather conditions caused the Pitot Tubes’ to fail (i.e., the airspeed sensors in front of the plane), which deactivated the aircraft’s autopilot system. The pilot struggled to fix the issue but was unable to understand the most fundamental part of flying in order to take control of the aircraft, and the plane crashed in the ocean.

As heavy-duty vehicle engineering approaches new levels of automation and control, it is crucial that engineers learn from other industries in their development and integration of these automated controls and that the operators are engaged enough to recognize and react appropriately to vehicle warning systems. Solutions must reach a balance not to overload the operator with incoming data, messages, and alerts to allow operators to make a correct decision.

Operators still gather most of their input through their eyes, and advanced sensor technologies enhance our perception and vision capabilities to make heavy-duty mobile machinery and those around them safer. To operators, there are currently still obvious benefits and situational negatives, unfortunately. It is common knowledge that these systems are integral to the future of operating heavy-duty machinery, and there is always a margin of human error for which these solutions are to counteract and avoid costly and dangerous collisions. 

While ADAS and other sensor technologies continue to develop, work environments have improved with lower margins of error, fewer collisions, and increased reassurance for the operator. However, when considering the differences between the distractions and useful information these advanced technologies provide, safety must remain the true driving force behind automation.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month – a designation created in large part to our technological strides in communication As far as we’ve come in bringing the future of communication to our front doors, we’ve also taken a big step backward when the actions we take on our devices while behind the wheel are proven to increase crash risk.

You can create awareness in your workplace, your home and community by sharing the distracted driving message. The National Safety Council offers infographics, a poster, fact sheet and several social media-friendly graphics, which you can download.

How to Tackle the Trucking Industry’s Driver Shortage

The trucking space looks attractive in 2021, given its stable economic position with more than 70 percent of goods consumed in the U.S. moving by truck, consistent job growth expectancy, and the promises made to boost infrastructure spending in the United States.

However, demographics have been steadily working against the trucking industry since 2018, and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) says they have been struggling with a driver shortage for the past 18 years. This is because, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of commercial truck drivers in the U.S. is 55 years old, and many are looking to retire.  

With the average age of drivers being 10 years older than the average age of other comparable industries like manufacturing and construction, the trucking industry experienced a high rate of older drivers who either retired or exited the industry due to COVID-related health concerns.

The trucking industry has yet to see the same level of new entrants into the industry. Still, even if the shortage numbers fluctuate, it remains a serious concern for the trucking industry, the supply chain, and the economy. This is why the driver shortage has become a top priority for executives this year, and according to Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT) Magazine’s 8 Changes to Expect in Trucking in 2021 article, “It’s arguably the biggest challenge the trucking industry will face in 2021.”  

“In addition to the sheer lack of drivers, fleets are also suffering from a lack of qualified drivers, which amplifies the effects of the shortage on carriers,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.

To manage the driver shortage and lack of qualified drivers, “Fleet providers are hoping that new, cutting-edge technologies … will entice a younger generation to get excited about joining the trucking industry. Now there’s a sense of urgency for OEMs to implement even more safety technologies – on the factory floor or through third-party vendor integrations” (HDT Jan. 2021).

Perception and Safety Need an Upgrade

However, attracting young new drivers may require more than an upgrade in tech.

The younger generation stays well informed, but the media carries a heavy weight on perception today. Now, a trucker’s lifestyle has been labeled “less than ideal” after trucks began to be portrayed as a negative reality on the road.

The dangers on-the-road are also no secret, and these dangers have yet to be fully addressed or solved by the trucking industry – for the safety of drivers and the public. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) traffic death report, overall deaths involving incidents with large trucks have been on the rise since 2009.

The NHTSA’s report found:

  • In 2018, 4,862 large trucks were involved in a fatal crash, a 1% increase from 2017 and a 51% increase since 2009
  • In 2018, 885 large truck occupants died; the highest in more than 30 years
  • In 2018, 4,951 people died in collisions with large trucks; a 46% increase from the number of deaths in 2009

“The numbers are even more reason that we shouldn’t head in the direction of loosening safety rules proven to work to make trucking safer, and that help reduce the risks for people who share the road with trucks,” said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Trucking Fatalities Report).

Even though large trucks are only responsible for 3% of injury-causing motor vehicle incidents, these collisions typically cause much more significant harm than ordinary traffic accidents due to most trucks’ large size and heavy weight. Of these traffic incidents with large commercial trucks and big rigs, passenger vehicles’ drivers are primarily to blame. Among these incidents, most are caused by abrupt lane changes, unsafe passing and turning, poor acceleration, and not understanding the limitations to the capabilities of large vehicle acceleration, braking, and visibility.

Due to the fatality rates, it’s no surprise the American Transport Research Institute’s (ATRI) 2020 survey of the top issues facing trucking found insurance availability and cost, and compliance, safety, and accountability (CTA) closely followed the driver shortage as the industry’s highest rated issues.

“To better protect employees and the bottom line, each employer needs to understand the root causes of the most serious workplace injuries they face,” said James Merendino, Liberty Mutual’s general manager of risk control and national insurance. “Only then can they effectively mitigate and manage these through work design, system controls, technology, training, and strategic risk management. Insurance companies and brokers can be a key ally in these efforts.”

Mitigate Risk to Attract New Drivers and Reduce Costs

In 2012, the IIHS conducted a study that looked at the potential crash reductions with ‘crash avoidance features’ such as blind spot detection, forward collision warning/mitigation, and lane departure warning. The combination proved to “prevent or mitigate as many as 107,000 police-reported crashes each year, representing 28 percent of all crashes involving large trucks. As many as 12,000 nonfatal injuries, large truck crashes, and 835 fatal large truck crashes each year could be prevented or mitigated.”

Today, medium and heavy-duty fleets are only just beginning to adopt reliable and robust safety systems, like Radar, to help avoid collisions. According to fleet experts, there will be a more significant focus on safety with driver assistance technologies and compliance in 2021 and the years to come.

“With the start of a new year and new administration in D.C., we are likely to see major shifts in the commercial trucking industry,” said Fred Fakkema, Zonar’s vice president of safety and compliance. “Federal agencies, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, will further their commitment to bring advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to the market.”

“The ATA and other leading authorities will also shape their safety standards around these technologies. Additionally, we can expect to see federal groups pick up Obama-era compliance and safety programs, including the FMCSA’s Beyond Compliance provisions” (HDT Jan. 2021).

Why Safety Initiatives Will Get Top Billing in 2021

Experts say this will be the year fleets begin to adapt models to address the younger generation’s safety concerns and prepare for the potential rising insurance minimums starting in 2021. “The new administration is expected to increase insurance minimums, which will put a strain on smaller operators,” noted Fakkema. “We expect industry players to push back, and insurance providers will respond with new incentives to encourage fleets to leverage safety technology and avoid incurring excess expenses.”

Per the ATRI, insurance costs will increase in 2021, but at a ‘somewhat lower rate of growth’ if the trucking industry adopts active safety systems to help prevent the increasingly dramatic rate of post-accident liability lawsuits of truck-involved incidents.

For years the National Transport Safety Board’s goal has been to get collision mitigation systems, like Radar, on all commercial vehicles, stating these systems can minimize the severity and lessen collision rates.

“In the past few years, fleet managers have seen the power of safety technology and the cost savings in reduced fines, insurance, and legal fees that these technologies can provide on a mass scale,” said Fakkema. “There are a handful of safety product features that will be must-haves in 2021. Collision prevention, blind-spot [monitoring] … and assisted braking will be key safety components that will be in high demand by the industry” (HDT, Jan. 2021).

“When done properly, safety efforts prevent incidents,” the International Risk Management Institute (IRMI) reported. “Over time, the benefit of preempting incidents begins to have a less obvious cost-benefit as incidents become fewer. Thus, collecting good data in the early implementation phases becomes a factor in continuing to demonstrate value over time” (IRMI, The Cost of Safety).

Major Players Are Successfully Making Big Investments in Fleet Safety

Here are just a few examples of the many companies making big investments in their fleets safety and making an impact on driver acquisition and retention with best safety practices:

  • Recently, Fresh Freight in Phoenix, Arizona, decided to acquire a new fleet of premium trucks to attract top driversand address concerns for maintenance and safety. “It changes the way people look at you,” Matt Heroux, Chief Executive Officer, and President said. “They feel like … you understand their business concerns as fleet operators and aren’t going to do things that will put them in a bind.” According to Heroux, the company went from having zero drivers to picking the absolute best candidates possible to come and work with them, thanks to these changes.
  • Among many other companies making a significant investment in the safety of their fleets and driver acquisition practices, Walmart announced in February that they are “offering an $8,000 sign-on bonus for qualified Class A commercial truck drivers in select locations … in an effort to recruit the best and safest drivers to its private fleet (HDT, Feb. 2021).” Plus, they are also offering quarterly safe driving 
  • DTE Energy’s fleet optimization manager, and a 2020 Fleet Visionary of the Year Honoree, Marca Brown, notes that safety is critical to their fleet’s success and an important asset. This is because of DTE’s ‘modernization efforts,’ which focus on giving their drivers the safest vehicles possible to safely and effectively do their jobs. Today, DTE’s vehicles have standardized ADAS safety options, such as backup or cross-traffic monitors, lane departure, pre-collision assist, blind spot information, and auto high beam. Brown also notes that “educating drivers about the solutions made available on fleet vehicles is a critical part of her fleet processes” (Automotive Fleet Feb. 2021).

As major players within the trucking industry continue to look at the ROI and benefits of safety technologies, James Merendino and others believe this will positively impact the space. By tracking those numbers – and the impact of implementation – this data will undoubtedly “help employers, risk managers, and safety professionals improve workplace safety by highlighting its financial impact in total for specific industries,” concluded Merendino.

By tracking these costs and numbers, fleets can track how the safety and driver acquisition rates change over time, showing where safety and technology investments, like PreView Radar, can reduce insurance rates and return their initial costs.

Nominations Open for 2020 Excellence in Safety Award

In recognition of innovation, dedication and best practices, we are now accepting nominations for the ninth annual Excellence in Safety Award. Recognizing the outstanding achievements of safety professionals each year, the Excellence in Safety Award honors those who educate, support, and take action to improve safety on and off the work site.

PRECO safety award

Since its inception, the Excellence in Safety Award has recognized and honored safety professionals and leaders who have contributed significantly to the development of successful safety programs and education across the heavy-duty industries.

Past recipients of the Excellence in Safety Award include:

To nominate someone for the 2020 Excellence in Safety Award, fill out our Nomination Application.  Applications will be accepted until March 31, 2021.

About the Excellence in Safety Award

As a leader in safety, we established the Excellence in Safety Award to honor safety professionals for their initiative and commitment to the advancement of safety within their community, business or industry. The Excellence in Safety Award honors those with exceptional proofs of innovation, leadership, vision, and best practices in safety within the heavy-duty industries.

We invite you to submit your nominations for safety leaders who fit the award criteria here. 

Award Criteria

Initiative: The nominee demonstrates leadership, initiates open discussions, introduces programs, and gives voice to safety concerns within the industry, community, or business.

Involvement: The nominee takes an active role in industry associations, community safety programs, and business or legislative policy changes to advance safety.

Innovative: The nominee is creative and imaginative; introduces new ideas and suggestions to move safety into the forefront of the community, legislature, business, or industry they serve.

This award intends to recognize an individual that demonstrates excellence in advancing best safety practices throughout the community, business, or industry by continuously going above and beyond to integrate, innovate, and educate others to inspire change and improve safety.

The top three nominees and the winner of the 2020 Excellence in Safety Award will be announced in 2021.

The deadline to nominate a candidate is April 16, 2021.

Submit nominations for safety leaders who fit the award criteria today!

Engineering Spotlight – Advanced Vehicle Technology

The advancement of safety features in Highway Vehicles has changed the way we travel, and profoundly increased the safety of vehicle operators, passengers, and pedestrians. As the automotive manufacturers have dedicated their focus on safety, and crash survivability, countless lives have impacted. From the advent of the safety-belt, Supplemental Restraint Systems (airbags, pre-tensioners), to engineering crush zones within vehicle structures have significantly increased motor-vehicle survivability. However, the highest risk component, the human operator, is still in control of most vehicle operating functions. This human component is referred to as “Human Factors.”

Human Factors are defined as: “the science dealing with the application of information on physical and psychological characteristics to the design and systems for human use.” (Encyclopedia Britannica) Human Factors refers to factors which involve any Human-Machine, Human-Computer, or Human-Human interaction. This focus is to ultimately compensate for our human limitations in the goal of safety and efficiency. Vehicle systems such as Lane Departure Warnings, Automatic Braking, and Blind-Spot Detection have considered these human limitations, and in some instances, taking the human out of the equation.

As vehicle automation advances, and companies such as Waymo, Google, and Delphi are looking to revolutionize the way we travel entirely, and for the most part, eliminate the Human Factors element from vehicle operation. While this seeks to radically change the overall safety of motor vehicle operation, as well as pedestrian safety, there are lessons to be learned.

As aviation began to automate flight systems in the 1960s and 1970’s, the goal was the same. To substantially reduce the incidence of Human Error and ultimately increase safety and efficiency. This soon came with one major downfall. The over reliance on automation and these systems to always perform as engineered had catastrophic outcomes. This “over reliance” on these systems has degraded pilot skills and created severe instances of confirmation bias. One example of this over reliance was demonstrated on June 1, 2009, when Air France Flight 447 departed Rio de Janeiro, Brazil en route to Paris, France. While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the aircraft (Airbus A330) encountered storms along their route, which included icing conditions. These icing conditions ultimately let to a failure of the Pitot Tubes (Airspeed sensors in front of the aircraft) and deactivation of the aircraft’s autopilot system. While struggling to understand what had happened and correct the situation, the pilot became unable to correct for the most fundamental part of flying, severely aggravating the situation, and ultimately crashing into the ocean.

As vehicle engineering approaches new levels of vehicle automation and control, it is crucial that engineers learn from other industries in their development and integration of these automated controls, and that the operators are engaged enough to recognize and react appropriately to vehicle warning systems. A balance must be reached as not to overload the operator with incoming data and warning messages, and ultimately allow the operator to make a correct decision.

Here at PRECO, we engineer our safety systems to aid in vehicle safety by addressing human limitations through the development of our products. Such consideration informs operators of emerging safety situations, allowing ample reaction time. Our systems allow the operator a better understanding of their situational awareness through our vehicle sensors, as well as consideration of these human limitations when designing and engineering the warning systems integrated into our sensors. Simple transmitted messages through audio and visual means allow the operator to promptly interpret the message sent and act appropriately to negate the issue, reducing the chance of inappropriate operator input. It is also vital operators are correctly trained on how to use these systems, their components, as well as the regular operation of these systems, so they are aware of all system aspects.

As operators gradually change roles from vehicle operation to more of a vehicle monitoring role, it is crucial that manufacturers consider these human limitations, and ensure clear, concise information to the person filling that role. An accurate messaging system that ensures understanding of that individual to all necessary information regarding safe operation must take precedence to continue reaching milestones in vehicle safety and control.

Human-Machine Interfaces (HMI)

Human-Machine Interfaces (HMI) is used extensively in the cabs of heavy-duty OEM equipment both on and off-road, and allows a person to interact with a machine, like an instrument panel, the joystick, the steering wheel, the brakes, the knobs and buttons of the infotainment system, Etc.

HMI interactions can be a visual signal, an audible signal, how the machine communicates to a person, or how they communicate back. This includes all the different Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) and safety systems that beep, flash, vibrate, or otherwise inform or warn the operator.

Due to these advancements, the cab has gotten busier with more HMIs communicating information to the operator. This has led to sensory overload — where too much information from numerous HMIs creates distractions, leading to a decrease in safety.

As these machines have become more complex, the amount of information generated has increased significantly. For a while, the trend has been to provide as much information as possible to operators — stemming from the idea ‘more information is best.’ However, over the last decade, a widespread recognition that more information is not necessarily better has grown.

The industry has begun to recognize that instead of continuously providing all available information, they must transition to offering systems that intuitively separate and communicate helpful information to the operator. That way, the operator understands what they need to know when they need to know it.

More than ever, our tools are connecting to computers, digital systems, and other devices more to automatically carry out tasks. Yet, for these advanced technological solutions to be successful on heavy-duty mobile machines, they must be intuitive and avoid information that merely distracts users.

Simply because information is available, that doesn’t mean it’s the best idea to provide it to the operator. Too much information from numerous sources could cause information overload and distraction. If there is an information overload, operators can’t focus on what they’re trying to accomplish, or the most critical information to avoid an incident. This is why it’s so vital to place the right information front and center, both visually and audibly.

The issue at hand is there are already too many distractions in the cabs of most mobile equipment on the road, like infotainment systems, GPS navigation, lane-keeping systems — the list goes on. This is why the cab’s HMIs must provide accurate information to the operator only when needed or useful to the operator.

What’s Needed for HMI Success

Regardless of the HMI, its purpose is to provide useful information to aid the operator in their task. This means that the equipment and user must communicate and interact smoothly with minimal distractions when it comes to HMI success.

However, new advances in in-vehicle technologies and rapid deployment of these advanced systems in vehicles already on the road have left questions. Questions that AAA investigated in their “Understanding the Impact of Technology” 2019 study.

The AAA study found that people who regularly use ADAS technologies are more likely to be distracted and overly reliant on the very solutions designed to improve safety and driver-awareness. With nearly 93 percent of all new vehicles equipped with advanced driver-assistance features, like lane-keeping, cruise-control, distance tracking, and GPS navigation functions, drivers are now twice as likely to be distracted.

According to AAA’s study, the most distracting infotainment systems can take a driver’s attention from the road for an average interaction time of 7 – 31.4 seconds, like using GPS navigation or using the entertainment system. That means drivers are 22 – 41% more distracted while using interactive ADAS systems while on the road.

This over-reliance happens once drivers move from the “novelty phase” to the “post-novelty operational phase.” This is because people begin to adapt their behaviors, and over-reliance and too much trust in the systems automation features start to develop.

Researchers at AAA collaborated with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and found this to be true, “These drivers are more apt to take their eyes and attention away from the road. Research in other industries shows that pilots and nuclear technicians demonstrate similar patterns of over-reliance on automated systems. These behaviors can eventually lead to distraction.”

As noted, over-reliance is another potential issue caused by providing too much information to the operator. As long as operators are expected to play an integral part of operations, they must be kept engaged. For example, if an operator could perform almost all of their job without looking out the window, that would be an inevitable issue. The operator can only almost do the task at hand due to disengagement.

Even at Level 3 autonomy, the vehicle can only operate most of the time without any driver interaction. It can drive on its own, but it’s not fully-autonomous, so it will miss things. This means the driver must be available to take control of any given situation. Drivers have to be ready to take evasive action immediately. 

Although the human component is vital to safely operating equipment up to Level 3, human nature continues to be a weakness. So, not only are humans psychologically hard-wired to either be engaged or disengaged — but HMI displays and ADAS solutions have proven to have a direct causality with over-reliance.

Developing Solutions to Further Advanced Technology Trends

In the past decade, operational and business needs have brought on exciting HMI developments — including quite a few new capabilities. Today, there is a lot of information and interactions crossing between these new HMI capabilities. It’s becoming more common to see evolved forms of HMI in the heavy-duty mobile market, and these modernized interfaces are creating more opportunities for equipment interaction and analysis.

Still, recent research has led the industry to acknowledge they need to consolidate HMIs to minimize distractions. One idea has been to focus on the combination, creating a common space, where a single HMI or system does a myriad of tasks. 

Instead of having several HMIs — like camera monitoring systems (CMS) with a 360-degree view, sounds alerting to lane changes, and another HMI in the corner beeping when the vehicle veers — competing for the operator’s attention, you can consolidate these HMIs. With a single intuitive and consistent HMI telling operators what they need to know, when they need to know it, this would successfully remove the clutter from the dash in the cab and decrease the level of distraction.                                                                                                                                                               Image courtesy of Xite Solutions North America                       There is work being done in the industry to minimize HMIs through common space; they have acknowledged it is essential. One example is standardizing common alerts — where all sounds from any HMI alerting to a single issue are the same. But it must be intuitive and has to help the operator tackle the task at hand.

The progression of HMIs in the cab follows a bell-shaped curve. For a long time, the industry focused on offering more information, going up the curve. Today, there has been a broad recognition that now this information needs to be filtered. Soon we will see the bell curve turn back down as OEMs and HMI manufacturers provide less information by providing the right information at the right time for the operator.

Avoid Sensory Overload via Threat Analysis

In most cases, current technology is a vessel for information transfers and can cause a sensory overload. From the early 1900s to the present, this transfer of information has gone from a trickle to a fire hose — today, more information is thrown at people in a single day than our grandparents got in their entire lifetime. Which poses the question: How do we prioritize all this information and pay attention to what really matters? 

First and foremost, it’s essential to be cautious about overloading anyone with irrelevant information, especially operators driving on roads and near personnel and VRUs. Operators of heavy-duty mobile machinery need to be assisted in their efforts, not given more white-noise. 

When HMI displays alert drivers whenever an object is detected, telling them how far away it is, and its relative motion — that’s too much information. The operator only needs to get high-level alerts, which result from a threat analysis — when the sensor system communicates data on any object in proximal range to equipment. The threat analysis looks at this information and then decides how significant a threat is and how likely a collision is.

This has to do with developing and then providing accurate information via the HMI display, which is crucial because the driver’s information is only as good as the machine’s information. Data accuracy and the process of turning that data into information are solely up to the sensor, and thankfully sensors have been making recent advancements.

That’s one of the many reasons the improvements made in sensor technology are focused on providing more accurate systems, like PreView® Radar. One of the essential steps in creating these systems is evaluating information streams, determining what to tell the operator, and when. This also includes time derivatives and understanding relative motion — all vital pieces to completing a successful threat analysis. 

In a threat analysis, stationary objects identify as low-level threats compared to objects-in-motion. In contrast, an object with a relative motion moving away from equipment elicits a lower threat level than an object moving toward equipment would. 

For example, a parked car is considered a low-level threat, but driving close to VRUs, like worksite personnel or bicyclists, elicits a more severe, high-level threat. Making this differentiation is what the industry wants these systems to be intelligent enough to determine. By compiling every piece of information, it’s easier to determine the threat level and distinguish between them to communicate the most critical threats to identify to the operator.

One of many organizations that recognize false and unnecessary alerts are distractions that can hinder operator acceptance and trust in the system(s), and its use-cases is the ADAC in the European Union. However, when it comes to the requirements for false positives or distractions, some organizations, like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), provide minimal guidance. There is a difference between meeting requirements and being the operator’s top pick. Ultimately, a system that meets regulations must also be the best for the operator.

Understanding these requirements, PRECO builds purpose-built systems for specific problems in specific markets, focusing on providing the right information at the right time. For example, PreView Side Defender®II was rated as the No. 1 blind spot assistance system — receiving zero false positives or nuisance alerts in the ADAC testing service’s 2019 report, which recommended Side Defender®II be standardized by manufacturers, even before legal obligation.

Side Defender®II is just one example of how well PRECO understands the industry’s safety needs. PRECO’s systems detect VRUs, trees, traffic lights, and many other stationary and moving objects. Still, because the radar is conducting a threat analysis, the system can prioritize information and minimize unnecessary distractions from false alerts to low-threat objects.

How High-Performance HMIs Work with PRECO Systems

Supporting the mitigation of HMI distractions, PRECO designed all of its sensors to easily support existing HMIs in the cab, like CMS displays, to ease the integration process. To decrease the number of HMIs in the cab, PRECO offers a single audible and visual display for multiple sensors that can support sensors covering up to a 360-degree view of the environment surrounding heavy-duty mobile equipment.

PRECO’s PreView® Radar solutions use CAN-based J1939 messages allowing the systems to support any HMI that supports J1939. These systems can also use AUX out electrical signals to drive simple HMIs. PRECO’s AUX out signals are either on or off, and the J1939 provides a lot of information and threat level analyses for various objects.

Additionally, PRECO simplifies integrating its sensors with existing HMIs, like simple displays and advanced monitor systems. This also includes the option of eliminating the monitor and integrating it with the existing in-cab HMI display.

Combining PRECO’s award-winning active safety technology with existing HMI displays, the PreView system completes a threat analysis, establishes the high-threats, and communicates this information via audible and visual alerts. Thus, intuitively providing a better sense of the environment surrounding equipment to operators by triggering customer-specific, purpose-built alerts.

Heavy-duty mobile equipment with HMI’s need to establish threat analysis processes to prioritize information and avoid nuisance alerts and distractions successfully. It’s then the HMI’s responsibility to communicate the crucial high-threats to the operator at the right time.

With PRECO’s advanced threat analysis, the OEM and aftermarkets have access to tools to help their equipment operators avoid incidents caused by human or machine errors. Now humans and machines can safely coexist with fewer distractions via PRECO’s advanced collision mitigation technology.

Peering into the Future, Here is Where HMI is Headed

HMI now needs to address the new wave of sensor-driven solutions that the market is demanding. The latest technological revolution of connected devices for the Internet of Things (IoT) and OEM mining and construction industries all require stable and precise sensors, such as PRECO’s Radar safety technology. 

It’s hard to predict precisely how the technology will progress in the coming years, but there is no doubt we will see it continue to evolve and improve. In the near-term, ground transportation applications are likely to remain focused on collision avoidance. Continued focus toward fully autonomous vehicles will see more trucks and buses equipped with GPS, LiDAR, Radar, CMS, and other systems to combine their signals to obtain an even more accurate representation of the environment.

Object detection and avoidance systems are becoming more prevalent on heavy-duty mobile machines as a means of not only improving safety but also creating more automated features. These include personalized, purpose-built solutions with advanced software and algorithms that enable situational understanding for machines and operators.

Today, PRECO plays an integral role in advancing safety technology solutions and is well-positioned as the market evolves into semi- and eventually full-autonomy. Eventually, the hope is to achieve fully autonomous vehicle operations. 

As manufacturers continue to develop more automated features and eventually fully autonomous vehicles, radar sensors will become an increasingly larger part of the technology mix. The collision avoidance and object detection capabilities they provide are already enabling the use of ADAS, which are stepping stones along the road to autonomy — the ultimate safety solution.

Functional Safety at PRECO Electronics

Even in today’s highly-connected world, humans still play a vital role in work environments, and most present-day heavy-duty mobile equipment operate in proximity to humans. Functional Safety was born to ensure equipment systems can detect, diagnose, and safely mitigate incidents to prevent harm to humans and machines. By proving, testing, and documenting the system design process, functional safety is now a critical element to any/all systems installed within heavy-duty mobile equipment, factory options, and aftermarket machines.

Thanks to these improved alternatives, turning to functionally safe technologies will soon become the precedent.

Safety is Your Competitive Advantage

By implementing key safety technologies, on and off-road heavy-duty mobile equipment can be uncaged, allowing them to work alongside humans, other vehicles, and vulnerable road users (VRU) safely and intelligently.

This collaborative approach allows heavy-duty mobile equipment to follow vital actions, leaving critical thinking and more complex decision-making elements to operators. However, safety is even more essential with man and machine working in such proximity. Systems must continuously monitor the mobile equipment’s integrity and react appropriately under hazardous conditions, driving functional safety to the forefront.

OEM machines have many sensors that can detect potential hazards — perhaps a human or a smaller vehicle is moving across the heavy-duty mobile equipment path, for example. In this situation, the machine should slow down or pivot to avoid the collision. However, if this particular machine’s sensors were to fail, it may continue along its path — resulting in a potential injury or expensive damages. 

This example highlights the need for systems designed with functional safety and cases such as this in mind, like PRECO’s PreView Radar systems. Doing so would not only help heavy-duty mobile equipment and OEMs reduce the associated risks. Additionally, it would ensure all systems are monitored, operating efficiently, and correctly diagnosing issues and reporting them as measurable data.

How Functionally Safe Systems Meet the Challenges Ahead

Highly interconnected systems realize today’s innovative Automated Driving Systems (ADS) functions via sensor fusion, based on existing Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). This fusion of sensors has continued to increase these systems’ complexity — offering heavy-duty mobile equipment and OEMs the information needed to successfully and safely operate within numerous environments.

For safety reasons, today’s heavy-duty mobile equipment and fleets utilize various ADAS functions.

With the addition of these new ADAS innovations, systems are becoming more complex than ever before in these two aspects:

  1. From a technical point of view— in the context of the introduction of new technologies for implementing the functions required
  2. From an organizational point of view— concerning the whole supply chain, including the suppliers involved for different kinds of services and products during the lifecycle of heavy-duty mobile equipment

With the introduction of safety technologies, systems reduced the number of fatal incidents. But, as time went on, incidents still occurred with some frequency — a byproduct of human and system errors. Thus, safety has become an important topic for many, namely the European Union (EU) at the moment — and with it, the need to reduce the number of human-caused incidents by introducing the next generation of sensor-rich solutions to heavy-duty and OEM industries.

So, as we develop better safety technologies, PRECO is pushing for functional safety compliance. Why? Because the purpose of functional safety is not only to design and manufacture Radar sensors with a low failure rate, but also to systematically discover and implement necessary safety mechanisms.

TIP: When a safety mechanism discovers a critical fault it reacts by putting the sensor into its safe state (usually “off”) with notification to the operator or system not to rely on that sensor. Thus decreasing the risk of harm to humans and equipment.

The Purpose of ISO 26262 and ISO 19014 Functional Safety Compliance

In adding ISO 26262 and ISO 19014 compliant functional safety systems, OEMs can tackle the complex issues of the different levels of autonomous systems and issues concerning availability and reliability, the importance of intellectual processes, and the role operators play.

  • ISO 26262 provides a structured and generic approach for an automotive system’s complete safety life cycle, including design, development, production, service processes, and more for on-road vehicles. 
  • While the ISO 19014 is used to assess off-road mobile machinery’s functional safety requirements and covers the hazards caused by the failure of a safety control system (excluding hazards caused by machines, like fires). 

Both are risk classifications that create parameters for achieving “tolerable risk levels”:

  • The safety-critical hazardous situation heavy-duty mobile equipment operate within; 
  • As well as the reduction of risk requirements for systems

Meeting these classifications can be a significant challenge, primarily because ISO 26262 and 19014 set requirements and recommendations but don’t explicitly define how they should be implemented efficiently for specific applications. PRECO has found that functional safety expert knowledge is the best answer to implementing these requirements and recommendations.

Functional Safety Plays an Integral Role in System Development — Beginning-to-End

At PRECO, the systems’ overall engineering covers all kinds of system properties such as reliability, availability, maintainability, security, and functional safety. With the addition of Till Seyfarth, PRECO’s Functional Safety professional, the company is now creating thoughtful processes to guide our engineering team toward future ISO 26262 and 19014 standard compliance. By improving our current and future sensor-rich safety solutions, Till Seyfarth guides the engineering team in the right direction by explaining the functional safety standards, building precise technical requirements, and introducing new tools.

This drive toward functional safety has made it easier than ever for PRECO to focus our engineering efforts on preserving life by designing more safety-critical solutions. Plus, this has allowed our team to keep cost, reliability, and the mitigation of system errors top-of-mind.

PRECO purpose-built systems already power a broad range of applications throughout the heavy-duty industries across various use-cases from single sensor systems to complex OEM mobile equipment and vision systems. Naturally, PRECO has been planning and implementing robust processes to ensure our products conform to other safety standards, including third-party assessments like the EU’s ADAC testing service. Working with safety standards and regulations has played a vital role in PRECO developing our award-winning PreView Side Defender®II, the first radar-based side blind spot solution with active VRU warning and visual-display with Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA) National Type Approval.

In the last year, PRECO’s taken significant steps in improving our functional safety by enhancing our processes to get closer to ISO 26262 (on-road), to inevitably bring us closer to ISO 19014 (off-road) compliance. It is only a matter of time until PRECO’s products begin meeting the ISO 19014 standard for industrial off-road use-cases.

Discover more about PRECO’s functional safety improvements and plans for its many sensor-rich solutions from PRECO’s safety tech team.

The Importance of Sensor Fusion

The move toward full autonomy will see safety systems that combine their data for more accuracy.

As demands for machine safety and autonomous mobile equipment have increased, perception systems have become more critical than ever to accurately recognize the position and velocity of surrounding vehicles, Vulnerable Road Users (VRU), and other hazards and obstructions.

This has come with an increased emphasis on diversifying sensors’ set to increasing resolution requirements within an extensive range of heavy-duty operating conditions. Increased emphasis on functional safety and safety requirements has grown, diversifying the sensor sets to include multiple technologies such as Radar, Camera Monitoring Systems (CMS), LiDAR, and GPS.

By melding the data from these different sensor types require high-performance systems with software solutions, including sensor fusion, machine learning, AI, and advanced sensor learning algorithms. By bringing together data-sets from different sensors, the machine can provide better information about objects, VRUs, and the equipment’s environment. 

Due to this, sensor fusion is one of the most critical topics in autonomous machines and is recognized as the path towards autonomy — the ultimate safety solution.

Today, new heavy-duty mobile equipment — at many different levels of autonomy — use various sensors to understand their environments, locate, and move. But most sensors are operating independently today. 

Sensor Fusion & Its Different Forms

In performing a fusion of sensors, different data for the same object are taken into account, and as these systems work together, they make a machine more intelligent. To create the solutions the market’s driving for, one of the requirements to enable the delivery of successful autonomous vehicles is effective sensor fusion.

To effectively combine the data from multiple sensors via sensor fusion, it’s critical that the systems provide accurate, functionally safe information (i.e., meet functional safety requirements and information levels required by autonomy).

One of the premises of achieving functional safety is eliminating single points of failure. Sensors have weaknesses and strengths, and although their weaknesses are common, they are considered single points of failure — which is why functional safety can be a commonplace of failure. However, if a fusion of sensors is introduced, and various systems are used simultaneously, then the reliability of the system is increased.

Through fusion, collision mitigation technologies such as Radar, CMS, brake assist, LiDAR, and more have the capability of providing more advanced, functionally safe solutions than what’s on the market today:

  • Camera sensors are a reliable tool that transcribes the driver’s vision, reading the environment by identifying roads, pedestrians, signs, Etc.
  • LiDAR can accurately estimate positions, but are affected by environmental conditions; 
  • While the Radar accurately detects objects and their relative position, and motion — but cannot classify objects

Each of these sensors has advantages and disadvantages. Sensor fusion aims to use the benefits of each to precisely understand its environment.

The Levels of Sensor Fusion and Their Important Roles

The applications of high-level fusion approaches demonstrate a sequence of significant advantages in multi-sensor data fusion, and safety fusion systems are no exception to this. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and autonomy have become the leading forces behind sensor fusion research and played a large role in deep learning over recent years. However, object detection continues to pose a critical challenge in designing a robust perception system for heavy-duty machines.

Object detection technology, like CMS, are commonplace within heavy-duty markets, but alone they are not enough to significantly reduce the danger associated with equipment operations. Alone, cameras are capable of object-recognition, while Radar is handy for determining an object’s distance and relative motion. By fusing vision tech with active Radar technology, such as PRECO’s PreView® Radar, information from both technologies is used to identify a person, the distance to that person, and the relative motion of both — which neither can do alone. This is why one of the most common sensor fusion developments is combining CMS with Radar.

Today, many forward-thinking OEMs are taking the first steps towards fusion by combining HMIs, followed by the fusion of lower-level data, like people-recognition and relative distance. By fusing safety technologies with HMIs, data from various systems can be prioritized in order of importance, like alerting the operator to an imminent threat to avoid an incident, resulting in improved operational safety.

Include Radar in Sensor Fusion

Accurate information on distance and relative motion are of the utmost importance for operator and equipment safety. The top three benefits of Radar (Radio Detection and Ranging) include:

  1. Radar sensors are good at identifying an object’s relative motion, location, and solid-state.
  2. Radar is not affected by environmental conditions as others are, unlike LiDAR. Radar’s effectiveness in fog, dust, and other challenging environmental conditions is durable.
  3. Radar is a mature technology, compared to the image recognition in CMS, which is relatively new and evolving; neither CMS nor LiDAR is as mature as Radar.

Unlike other sensors that calculate the difference in position between two measurements, the Radar measures the change in the next radio wave frequency, like when a nearby vehicle moves towards or away from the Radar.

A strong suit of Radar sensors is its ability to estimate the distance and accurate location of objects. The Radar sees the world via three measurements:

  • The distance to the object
  • The angle of the object
  • The velocity of the object to or from the sensor

When combining vision systems with active safety systems, it’s important to know the areas in which each is or isn’t capable. Radar can identify if an object is moving or stationary, communicating to the operator what the object is doing, but not what it is. On the other hand, CMS can classifyobjects, like a tree, sign, or a VRU, like a pedestrian. However, CMS can’t identify an object’s motion (i.e., what the object is doing). While LiDAR successfully does both, but it’s expensive and heavily impacted by environmental conditions within a specified range, like dust, fog, or rain.

In the context of autonomy, Radar data is used to identify targets of interest from surrounding clutter. Using fusion, you can combine the strengths of Radar with those of LiDAR to create an accurate image of the environment around the sensor / machine and address the environmental weaknesses of LiDAR. Through this fusion, you can paint a more reliable picture of the areas surrounding the equipment. This ultimately helps prevent or minimize collisions’ impact, whether with other vehicles, pedestrians, or other objects.

How Sensor Fusion Can Improve Industry Safety

The technological advancements we see in the automotive space are often a little ahead of what we see on heavy-duty equipment. But many OEM and the heavy-duty market leaders are hopeful. As the frequency in which new automotive vehicles now come equipped with advanced front and rear CMS, as well as other sensors, decision-makers are recognizing the use-cases of these advanced safety technologies. They understand that their industry’s future lies in the fusion of safety technologies to protect equipment and assets. 

Today, the only true example of sensor fusion in automotive vehicles is rear and forward-facing CMS, which control braking systems for collision avoidance. Automobiles also implement ADAS, which is capable of supporting Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), lane departure, blind spot monitoring, and self-parking. ADAS fuses raw data from multiple sensors that include cameras, short- and long-range Radar, ultrasonic, and IMUs (Inertial Measurement Unit).

Compared to the automotive industry, off-road heavy-duty machines have very different safety requirements — blind spots are a strong example of this. Regardless of the safety requirement, fusion brings more reliability to identifying objects in blind spots and offers visual support to operators on what’s happening around the vehicle, especially in blind spots.

There’s no question that sensor fusion provides more comprehensive and dependable information than individual discrete sensors. For example, if multiple sensors are surveying the same area with RF interference, sensor fusion offers operators a backup. The more complete the sensor fusion, the better the object-recognition is, helping operators gauge and efficiently act on the threat level.

Sensor Fusion Advancements at PRECO — the Integration of Sensors to Create Smarter Systems

PRECO specializes in solutions optimized for heavy-duty mobile machines by purpose-building electrically and environmentally hardened systems to detect and communicate various information levels to operators. By collecting dense amounts of information, PRECO’s systems combine that data (i.e., simplifying high-level information), creating object lists and threat analyses’ to inform simple HMI’s and fusion controllers.

Sensor fusion results from combining multiple sensing technologies, so at PRECO, integrative partners are paramount. With PRECO’s integration partners’ help, such as Autonomous Solutions (ASI), Xite Solutions, Danfoss Power Solutions, Aspöck, and others, PRECO can offer more advanced solutions to the market.

Strengths can offset equipment weaknesses with each integration partner, allowing heavy-duty mobile machines to use each integrated system’s strengths. These partnerships have played a part in propelling the industry towards the future of fusion by providing accurate and reliable safety systems. As a result of such integrations, heavy-duty mobile equipment can access accurate and reliable safety solutions — an invaluable asset for OEMs looking to thrive with sensor fusion.

As sensor fusion and the adoption of sensors grows in demand, PRECO’s engineers and software developers have created flexible solutions that seamlessly integrate our safety products with existing systems. These current safety technologies include CMS, ADAS, mobile DVRs, safety alarms, telematics, and GPS systems.

PRECO has a long-standing history of working with the top OEMs in the market — providing products for many brands seen on- and off-road. As an increasing amount of market-driven products become deeply involved in what is next in the heavy-duty space, PRECO has continued to invest in Radar innovations and progressive partnerships to help heavy-duty mobile machine operations become safer than ever.