This is an unusual item for the R&D department, but there was simply no other space for it in this issue. And we think the technology is important enough to warrant a deviation from our standard fare. In a nutshell, radar-based object detection has been linked to a brake interlock system to yield a new system that not only alerts a truck driver to something behind the rig, but actually stops the vehicle before it strikes or runs over that object.
The brake system components
This is the result of technology sharing between MICO, a manufacturer of hydraulic brakes, and Preco Electronics Inc. (www.preco.com), a maker of vehicle communication systems. It combines MICO's Model 691 electrohydraulic brake locks with Preco's PreView radar object detection.
When an equipped vehicle is shifted into reverse, a solid-state, 5.8 GHz pulsed radar sensor kicks in to sweep the area 5 million times/s. The detected distance to the closest object appears on an in-cab display within 2 /10 s. Both moving and stationary objects are detected in a predefined coverage area; the detection range is 16 ft. wide and 9–26 ft. distant from the vehicle. If something is back there, the brake system locks hydraulic pressure in the service brakes. Should the driver need to closely approach, say, a dock or a pallet, there's a manual override that momentarily unlocks the brakes. Once this button is released, the brake lock re-engages.
The radar unit combine for safe backing up
The sensor, mounted at the rear center of the vehicle, ~36 in. above the ground, is encapsulated in a polycarbonate radome material and can operate at temperatures from –40°F to 185°F. Multiple sensors can be networked for large trucks requiring more coverage. The system is self-contained and is compatible with single-, dual-, or anti-lock brake systems and does not interfere with normal vehicle operation.
At present, the system is targeted for commercial vehicles and works only with hydraulic brakes, but MICO is working on an another version for air-braked vehicles. We would very much like to see it developed for all passenger vehicles, to prevent people from backing over bikes and, tragically, the children on them, in their driveways.