The technology, which Samsung calls the Safety Truck, uses a wireless camera at the front of a tractor-trailer to relay images of the road ahead to an array of video screens on the rear of the truck. The screens appear to enable motorists traveling behind to “see through” the truck to view conditions on the road ahead.
Samsung tested the technology in a real-world setting with a “local B2B client,” although its prototype truck is no longer on the road. However, the company said its tests “confirm that the technology works and that this idea can definitely save the lives of many people.”
The Danger of Car-Truck Encounters
The Safety Truck could eliminate the driver frustration and hazards associated with motorists trying to pass a large, slow-moving truck on a one-lane highway, according to Samsung. As an example, the company cites statistics from Argentina, where a large number of accidents take place in passing situations on two-lane roads.
In addition to making it easier for drivers to decide whether it’s safe to try and pass a truck, the video-screen technology could also help “reduce the risk of accidents caused by sudden braking or animals crossing the road,” Samsung said.
While trucks in the U.S. have lower rates of involvement in police-reported collisions than do passenger vehicles, accidents involving trucks have higher fatality rates thanks to “basic physics” — tractor-trailers are larger and heavier, noted a 2013 report on car-truck crashes from the American Trucking Association. The report added that “cars are involved in the large majority of truck crashes.”
‘A Very Big Safety Deal’
We asked Wes Guckert, President and CEO of The Traffic Group, a Maryland-based traffic engineering and transportation planning firm, what he thought about the potential for Samsung’s Safety Truck. He said he thought the technology “could be a very big safety deal.”
Basic traffic safety thinking recommends that drivers pay attention not just to the vehicle in front of them but to the two or three vehicles farther ahead, he said. That’s especially true with trucks, which — because of their greater weight and momentum — will take longer to slow down if there’s an obstacle or sudden braking situation on the road ahead of them.
“You don’t want to be the last guy hitting the brakes,” Guckert said. Samsung’s truck-screen technology, “could be an absolutely fantastic opportunity to improve driver safety,” he added.
But what would be the incentive for trucking companies to invest in such a technology? Guckert asked. He cited another innovation that showed great potential to reduce jack-knifing incidents among trucks . . . but was rejected by the industry because of its weight and impact on truck payloads.
Adding Safety Truck technology, is going to be a cost issue, he said. Because of that, encouraging companies to invest in the technology will have to involve a financial incentive, not a safety incentive, he added.
Guckert said that the insurance industry could offer price breaks for trucks that add the technology. Another possibility would be for a highly-visible, brand-conscious company like Budweiser to invest in the technology and use it to generate positive publicity for their many trucks on the road, he said.
Samsung said its next step will be to “perform the corresponding tests in order to comply with the existing national protocols and obtain the necessary permits and approvals.” The company added it is currently working on that with the help of safe-driving non-governmental organizations and government agencies.