The eyes have it

According to CarAccidents.com (www.caraccidents.com), large truck crashes cost over an estimated $24 billion a year. The average cost per crash when at least one person suffers an injury, at $217,005, is much higher than the overall average cost per truck crash — $75,637, for police reported accidents involving trucks weighing more than 10,000 lbs.

As part of a prevention program, Tom deWaal, president of Canadian trucking company East West Express, opts for installation of the Advance Warning System (AWS) from Mobileye Vision Technologies (www.mobileye.com) on his fleet of Class 8 trucks.

"We see anywhere between $200,000 and $250,000 (CAN) of equipment go out the door each day," de Waal says. "We haul everything from newsprint to lobster and may be looking at between $30,000 and $1 million on a trailer and cargo. If we can avoid one major accident, the safety system pays for itself."

AWS employs a proprietary EyeQ computer chip, and deploys monocular vision-based technology designed to function in much the same way the human eye does, explains Amnon Shashua, the company's founder and chief scientist. "It accurately reads lane markings and provides lane departure, forward collision warnings and more, to prevent accidents before they occur," Shashua claims. "Avoidance is the best solution for accidents."

Mobileye technology was developed as Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) for automobiles, and will be offered by Tier 1 automobile manufacturers and suppliers beginning with the 2006 model year. The system is intended to maintain a safe barrier between an automobile and the vehicle ahead of it. If a driver is moving at 60 mph and approaches a slower moving vehicle, when the vision system recognizes the driver is encroaching on a safe barrier, it reduces power.

The AWS is an aftermarket product designed to deliver safety information to a truck driver. Mobileye and East West Express have been working together over the past year, testing the technology to adapt it to meet specific safety needs of large trucks.

"We've been recording data on a test truck," says deWaal. "Based on our input, Mobileye has refined the software a number of times to adjust for different aspects of a large truck. We've had a number of drivers using it on a short-term basis."

East West Express expects to roll out the Mobileye system to its entire 55-unit fleet in the first quarter of 2005.

The AWS works as an alternative to or in conjunction with radar-based systems. A limiting factor with radar systems, notes Dr. Shashua, is that they are effective only for straight-line distances and are not able to determine where a truck is positioned in a lane. Inside the truck cab, the Mobileye system consists of a compact camera and processor placed on the windshield behind the rear view mirror, and a driver display the size of a cell phone placed on the dashboard.

For audible warnings, two small speakers are located on either side of the driver. A lane departure warning, for instance, responds with the sound and feel of a rumble strip to unintentional lane departures. Visual and audible warnings are activated when there is the possibility of a forward collision. The AWS monitors distance from the vehicle ahead and potential time to collision.

Additionally, the EyeQ chip permits rear vision applications such as lane change assist and blind spot detection. Mobileye is working on developing a special feature for trucks to provide a wildlife warning, an important adjunct for Canadian highways.

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