Updated: Volvo showcase work on blind spot elimination in lorries
Intersafe-2 is a development project, currently no plans to go into production
Volvo's commercial vehicles arm has released details of a new system, Intersafe-2, which they claim will be able to improve saftey at junctions by up to 80 percent. The system brings together a number of measures to eliminate blind spots on the passenger side of large vehicles where most collisions occur, and relays other road information too. However, don't expect to see it rolling out of the Volvo factory on production vehicles any time soon.
"It is changes on the passenger side of the truck that the driver does not see", says Malte Ahrholdt, Project Manager at Volvo Technology, and that's borne out in the accident statistics in this country where left-turning lorries account for a big percentage of cyclist fatalities. "Pedestrians and cyclists, in particular, are really in danger here. This system alerts the driver about their movements on the right of the vehicle", he added, although obviously in the UK the problem is reversed.
Intersafe-2 amalgamates a range of different approaches to eliminating blind spots. Firstly there's a series of high-mounted, super-wide-angle cameras which relay images to a screen in the cab, giving the driver pictures of all four side of the vehicle. On top of that there are laser sensors and ultrasound scanners operating in the traditional blind spot areas, to give additional alerts if vulnerable road users are detected. There's also a forward looking camera that monitors lane positioning and stop lines. Interestingly, the system also incorporates a radio loop that can communicate with traffic signals to tell the driver, for instance, if a pedestrian has pressed the crossing button or whether a traffic light change is imminent.
This all sounds great; here's the rub. "As Intersafe 2 is a research and development project", we're told, "the outcome will not lead directly to a solution for series production, but it does show how critical traffic situations can be tackled with intelligent technical innovations. We spoke to Veronica Nyblom at Volvo, who confirmed to us that there's currently no schedule within Volvo for getting the systems into the vehicles on the production line.
"This EU project is an important step, but it's a technological, research-oriented project", we were told. "We'll wait until the project is finalised and the results published before we make any decisions, at the moment there are no plans and no thoughts of production"
It certainly does show that all the technology exists to make vulnerable road users more safe at junctions. There's nothing ground-breaking in the Intersafe-2 system, just a series of simple-to-implement technologies that would make cyclists safer. So why aren't they being implemented, as standard, on all current rolling stock? There's currently a private member's bill to make fitting blindside sensors a legal requirement, tabled by Berwick-upon-Tweed MP Sir Alan Beith after he was contacted by the family of Eilidh Cairns who was killed by a lorry as she rode her bike to work in London’s Notting Hill in 2009. The cost to the economy of a fatal road accident has been estimated at £1.8m, not to mention the continuing human burden for those affected by such a tragedy. The cost of a retrofitted sensor system is as low as £700, and presumably fitting one as standard in a new vehicle costs even less.