Cars and Concepts

Removing the fear when passing a big rig

Jay Ramey is an associate editor with Autoweek, a sister publication of Automotive News.

Overtaking a large truck on a two-lane road is easily one of the most harrowing maneuvers drivers face, especially if they are accustomed to roads where passing isn't allowed.

Samsung has created a system that could take the guesswork out of passing large trucks that one cannot see around.

The company's prototype Safety Truck features a large screen on the rear door that is connected wirelessly to a camera at the front, essentially allowing the drivers behind the truck to see through it. Think of it as a 21st century update to that bubble on the rear window that some light buses feature that allows one to see what's going on up ahead.

The video wall itself is composed of four separate monitors on the back that are combined to display a wide angle view of the traffic ahead.

The concept seems simple; why hasn't anyone done this before? Samsung has had to overcome a number of technological issues, such as developing a rear screen that would not produce glare or blind the drivers behind the truck. But it seems that for the most part it's an issue of cost rather than technological challenge, given the Jumbotron-sized highway billboard screens we see everywhere.

The benefits of such a technology are obvious, and in addition to making trucks much safer to pass they can alert drivers behind the truck to road hazards up ahead, such as animals crossing the road or a stopped vehicle on the right shoulder.

While most drivers are cautious about passing trucks in the oncoming lane, it's easy to forget that overtaking a truck on the right without a clear view of the road up ahead is dangerous as well, as there could be a stopped vehicle in the right lane that the truck is obscuring.

When will we see this technology on 18-wheelers?

This is one of those innovations that will take some time to materialize for economic factors, as the cost to truck operators to adopt such a system when it becomes commercially available will come with no immediate benefit to truck operators.

Samsung is working with the goverment of Argentina and road safety groups to obtain necessary permits and approvals to field the technology on trucks beyond the prototype, but it appears that the most likely way for this technology to become commonplace is for a government agency to mandate it for several classes of trucks.

Perhaps this technology will spread once a small country adopts it for a class of large trucks, demonstrating its viability to its neighbors.

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