One in ten accidents on the road involves a truck. And because of the size and weight of these vehicles, accidents involving trucks can be much more severe than those involving regular-sized cars. There’s a drive, therefore, to find ways to make semi-trucks safer, both for the drivers, and other people on the road.
Tesla famously wants to introduce battery-powered autonomous trucks that will eventually do away with the driver altogether, but that vision is still some way off. Right now, manufacturers are taking baby steps which, when added together, will hopefully yield impressive results. The current plan is to adopt many of the technologies that are already in consumer cars and put them into trucks.
So what technologies will make driving a truck safer in the years to come?
Adaptive Cruise Control
Most of the time, trucks are cruising down the highway at a set speed. Most models have cruise control already, but the difference with adaptive cruise control is that it automatically reacts to the speed of the vehicle in front. Over the years, we’ve seen many examples of truck drivers plowing into the rear of slower-moving vehicles in front leading to terrible disasters, injuries and road closures.
With adaptive cruise control, however, that could become a thing of the past. A truck driver not paying attention would benefit from a system that automatically applied the brakes when it sensed a change in the speed of traffic ahead. Even if a driver were munching cereal balanced on their knee, it wouldn’t make a difference: the system would kick in as programmed.
Lane Marking Warnings
People often ask a truck accident lawyer to help them in situations where a truck strays over a lane and crushes their vehicle in the process. But accidental lane straying could become a rarer thing if trucks get lane marking technology that’s been in regular cars for some time.
Today, if you buy a mid-range or better car, you’ll get lane assist. The technology uses cameras mounted on the vehicle to determine whether a driver is staying in lane. If the driver moves out of their lane without indicating, the car will issue a warning sound.
Manufacturers will soon apply the same technology to trucks en masse. Once they do that, drivers will get an alert whenever their vehicles move outside of lane lines, hopefully cutting incidences of accidents on the highway.
Pedestrian Warning Lights
Pedestrians are a significant problem for truck drivers. They can appear in the road without warning, falsely believing that trucks can stop quickly, just like cars. Thanks to their added weight, they can’t.
Cameras with image recognition technology could be mounted to trucks, warning drivers ahead of time whether there are pedestrians around and if they are likely to step into the road. This may sound quite advanced, but similar tech is already a feature of many top-of-the-range models from luxury carmakers in Europe and the US.
The price of cameras has come down so much that they are now ubiquitous on cars. Many manufacturers now provide side-mounted cameras which feed an image through to the central console, allowing them to see other vehicles in their blind spot.
Naturally, the blind spot on a truck is much larger than that on a car. In fact, there are multiple locations where cameras would be beneficial, including both sides of the vehicle, as well as the rear.
As a first step, manufacturers will begin incorporating cameras that send feeds to the driver’s cockpit, showing them their surroundings. Later, experts expect that they will start using image recognition technology to warn drivers if there is a vehicle in their blind spot. And finally, we may get to the stage where the truck will not allow the driver to change lanes if it believes that there is a chance of an accident.
Will any of this technology have a real-world effect? Or is it just gimmicks?
Data suggest that many of these technologies to improve safety. A study in 2017 found that lane departure warnings reduce the incidence of injury by 21 percent and cut crashes by 11 percent.
Blind-spot detection may also offer significant improvements in safety. Studies show that it reduces lane change crashes by 14 percent and injuries by 23 percent.
Forward collision warnings had the most profound effect — these reduced accidents by an impressive 50 percent by preventing drivers from colliding with the vehicle in front. The future, therefore, is looking good for the trucking industry. Technology continues to make safety improvements.