The future face of commercial vehicle technology
Millions of successful businesses across Britain rely on their commercial vehicle fleets. From sourcing raw materials to delivering finished products, dependable and flexible vehicles are often among the first items listed on a firm’s asset sheet.
Current technological advances and manufacturing innovations are transforming commercial vehicles into sophisticated fully-connected communication centers. These advances have the potential to improve a company’s productivity, vehicle financing, safety and efficiency – as well as benefiting the bottom line. Here, we consider seven key innovations that will become commonplace across commercial vehicle fleets in the near future.
1. Safe Overtaking (SOT)
Wonderfully demonstrated by Samsung’s Safety Truck, a front-mounted camera on larger vehicles projects images of the road ahead onto a tailgate monitor. That enables following traffic to see the lorry driver’s perspective, allowing them to judge safe overtaking points and identify approaching junctions or hazards.
2. Image Driven Sat-nav (IDS)
The days of laboriously typing in addresses or postcodes into sat-nav systems could be ended with a system that allows Google Maps to identify a smartphone image of a building as a destination. A single still-shot of an office or hotel may be sufficient to generate turn-by-turn navigation, now Google Maps has branched out into 3D mapping. Businesses could have archives of images ready for common destinations, rather than expecting drivers to enter addresses from memory or look up postcodes online.
3. Augmented Reality Dashboards (ARD)
Advancing the principles of IDS, it should soon be possible to project sat-nav screens onto vehicle windscreens. This is already being done with basic vehicular information like speed within head-up displays (HUD), though IDS would allow drivers to see real-time journey information and navigation updates without taking their eyes off the road. ARD should prevent momentary sat-nav distractions, and could potentially improve delivery/arrival times for freight companies.
4. Seatbelt Health Monitoring (SHM)
It’s well known that driving while suffering poor health can lead to accidents. Because seat belts cover a driver’s chest (and therefore his or her heart), SHM would use sensors to monitor heart rate, blood pressure and other vital signs. In tandem with autonomous technology (vehicles driving and parking themselves), urgent health issues could cause the vehicle to slow down, pull over and even summon an ambulance with GPS co-ordinates of its exact location. Akin to the Alcolock breathalyzer installed in some modern vehicles, failure to engage SHM may result in tomorrow’s commercial vehicles refusing to start.
5. Sun Visor Screen (SVS)
Every motorist is familiar with the challenges and visual discomfort caused by driving towards low sun. SVS’s developmental technology looks set to operate on the same principles as photochromic spectacle lenses, tinting and darkening windscreens and side windows depending on the light intensity and direction to effectively eliminate glare.
6. Passive and Active Safety on Steroids (PAS)
Despite sharing an acronym with power assisted steering, PAS involves combining a variety of active and passive safety features for avoidance and damage limitation respectively. This blends existing technologies including Electronic Stability Control and Anti-Lock Braking Systems with newer features like radar technology capable of maintaining set distances from vehicles in front.
Advances in airbag design and installation may see them being deployed externally, as additional braking devices or even being miniaturized to fit within seatbelts. Another variation on this technology would see inflatable metal structures deploying to strengthen the vehicle body, akin to the pop-up rollover hoops already hidden within high-end convertibles.
7. Car2Car – also known as Vehicle2Vehicle (C2C or V2V)
This is perhaps the most impressive of all forthcoming technologies, effectively enabling vehicles to communicate with each other. Although the technology is hugely complicated, C2C might potentially eliminate any risk of crashing by ensuring every vehicle leaves a safe distance from those nearest to it. As well as saving accidents, injuries and insurance costs, C2C would minimize any need for commercial vehicles to be off the road having repairs carried out – a key challenge for any fleet manager.
Although some of the technologies outlined above are still at the experimental stage, they collectively offer an unprecedented opportunity to transform commercial vehicle journeys – lowering accident rates and reducing driver fatigue while streamlining navigation. Although manufacturer adoption will inevitably begin with high-end or larger vehicles, it should quickly filter down to even humble minivans and single-cabs. Futuristic technology such as augmented-reality dashboards and car-to-car communication could eventually become as commonplace as radios and electric windows are today…