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Volvo demonstrates trucks with collision-detecting brains

"Our vision for traffic safety is to have no accidents" says truck maker...

Motor vehicle manufacturers have announced various systems to help drivers of their cars avoid collisions, especially with vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. Volvo's truck division has announced a system for larger vehicles which, the company says, pose a whole different set of problems.

The system works “works much like the human mind,” Volvo says, using data from a range of sensors, radars and cameras round the vehicle and feeding information to the driver to help avoid a collision."

Here's a video featuring a man with a very deep voice explaining the system.

Despite making their small numbers, trucks and other large vehicles are involved in a disproportionally large number of collisions in which pedestrians and especially cyclists are killed or seriously injured.

In London, for example, trucks account for four per cent of traffic, but between 2008 and 2012 were involved in 53 per cent of the deaths of cyclists. In 2013, 14 cyclists lost their lives in the capital, and HGVs were involved in nine of those fatalities.

“Unprotected road users such as pedestrians and cyclists are especially vulnerable in urban areas where a lot of large vehicles move around,” said Carl Johan Almqvist, Volvo Trucks' traffic and product safety director.

"This technology enables a vehicle to ‘see’ its complete surroundings and feed information to the driver on how to avoid accidents. And if the driver does not respond to the suggested actions, the steering or braking system can be activated autonomously.”

"Our vision for traffic safety is to have no accidents involving Volvo trucks," said Almqvist.

Volvo's collision avoidance research, snappily-named Non-Hit Car and Truck Project, has been running since September 2010 and will wind up this December.

However, it will take five to ten years for systems such as this to hit the market. "We have the main components in place, but we need to do a lot more testing in order to make sure that the system is fault-free. If we manage to solve these challenges, a future without truck accidents is within reach," said Almqvist.

That's partly because the weight and loading of trucks makes automatic control more complicated that with cars.

"Trucks are a different type of vehicle and do not act the same way as cars in traffic. Each truck is loaded differently, for example, and their large size prevents them from carrying out severe avoidance manoeuvres - such as swerving quickly to avoid a collision. So it is important to research and develop technology specifically for trucks," says Mansour Keshavarz, systems engineer at Volvo Trucks.

Nevertheless, the day such systems are installed in all trucks can't come soon enough.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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