Spec'ing for Safety Rear-Vision Technologies

Spec’ing for Safety Rear-Vision Technologies

Backing accidents are quite common, according to David Money, technical director, transportation services, at Liberty Mutual Group’s Research Institute for Safety. “They account for 15 percent of all commercial motor vehicle accidents,” he says, “and while less expensive than other types of accidents because they generally happen at slow speeds, their frequency and the potential for serious consequences make it imperative to provide drivers with the best-possible visibility when backing.”

Backing accidents are quite common, according to David Money, technical director, transportation services, at Liberty Mutual Group’s Research Institute for Safety.

“They account for 15 percent of all commercial motor vehicle accidents,” he says, “and while less expensive than other types of accidents because they generally happen at slow speeds, their frequency and the potential for serious consequences make it imperative to provide drivers with the best-possible visibility when backing.”

Properly placed and adjusted rear-view mirror systems are a crucial first line of defense.

“While even the best standard mirror systems leave blind spots in the driver’s rearward vision – where backing accidents often occur – there are a number of supplemental devices available to improve the driver’s ability to view the area behind the vehicle,” Money says

A report by Money called “Supplemental Rear-Viewing Devices For Vehicles” includes details and considerations for three primary categories of rear-viewing devices for commercial vehicles. Liberty Mutual suggests the following information may be helpful when considering purchasing these technologies:

• Presence-sensing devices use sensors to detect objects behind the vehicle and signal a warning to the driver. Detection capability with these devices is generally good at close range, and the audible and/or visual warning helps make the driver aware of objects that might otherwise go undetected. Coverage area is a critical factor, as the driver needs sufficient time to react when signaled about the presence of an object to the rear. The larger the coverage area, the more time the driver has to stop the vehicle and prevent a collision. In addition, these systems usually mount under the vehicle, so care must be taken to prevent damage from striking stationary objects. But, they are not generally affected by weather or available light.

• Direct viewing systems use an on-board camera and monitor to give the driver an actual picture of the area to the rear of the vehicle. These systems, while the most expensive of the three technologies, provide the greatest range of view. Additionally, while their performance is affected by available lighting, their mounting location above hazards on the ground or loading dock makes them least susceptible to damage.

• Auxiliary mirrors increase the driver’s ability to view the area directly behind the vehicle. The mirror’s area of coverage extends approximately 10 feet beyond the rear bumper. While cross-directional or convex mirrors do improve the driver’s rear vision, the image is slightly distorted by the change in reference point from the flat mirror to the convex mirror and by the mirror’s radius. All mirrors also are limited by available light and weather conditions.

Simple fact

“An estimated 20 percent of all vehicle accidents in the United States are related to backing, caused by the simple fact that the driver cannot see what is behind the vehicle,” says Dave Plaster, global marketing manager at Eaton, maker of the Vorad BackSpotter radar-based object detection system. “National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research also indicates that 93 percent of all accidents involve driver error, such as not recognizing a hazardous situation until it’s too late, and that 54 percent of accidents are caused by driver inattention.”

A NHTSA study estimates 90 percent of backing accidents can be prevented with a back-up alert system that provides a warning to the driver, he says. These systems reduce accident potential because they provide an audible and visual alarm, making drivers aware of an obstacle, even when they are not being attentive.

Accounting for costs

According to Michael Padrnos, national sales manager of commercial vehicles at ASA Electronics, when considering the purchase of a rear-vision system for trucks, one must take into account all the preventable costs attributed to accidents.

“These include vehicle downtime, parts and labor and the cost of rental or replacement vehicles, cargo and property claims, workers’ compensation and insurance premium hikes,” he says. “Typical backing accident costs provided by OEMs, insurance underwriters and fleet managers, can range from $1,800 to $2,500 for step-van or walk-in-type trucks to more than $2,600 per incident for refuse vehicles and as much as a minimum of $5,000 per backing accident for shuttle and coach buses.”

Higher fatality rate

NHTSA research has demonstrated that straight trucks have a disproportionately higher back-up fatality rate than other vehicle types. In fact, the agency says that one out of four accidents can be blamed on poor backing techniques, leading to 500 non-passenger deaths and 15,000 injuries each year in the heavy trucking industry.

That has led to a proposed rulemaking by NHTSA mandating rear object detection systems on straight trucks to alert drivers to persons and objects directly behind the vehicle, thereby reducing backing-related deaths and injuries. The rule would require OEMs to equip trucks with a GVWR between 10,000 and 26,000 lbs. with a rear-object detection system by installing either a mirror or rear video system that would make the area to the rear of the vehicle visible to the driver.

Visual input

In written comments to the U.S. Department of Transportation about NHTSA’s proposed requirement, Donald Nama, president of Intec Video Systems, reflects that safe driving relies primarily on visual input to the driver. “Direct visual observation by the driver provides the best probability of correct analysis and safe operation,” he wrote. “Blind-spot areas (outside of direct visibility) exist on nearly all vehicles. Blind-spot areas can be most effectively addressed with a non-direct visual aid, such as a mirror or camera, that provides similar visual information and perspective to the driver.”

The prevention of even a single injury as well as the costs associated with property damage and downtime can make the investment in a supplemental rear-vision system insignificant, according to Nama.

“There is no single solution,” he added. “Legislation, awareness and education all play a part in protecting trucks and those who need to work around them. From the driver’s point of view, the best tool in the toolbox is improved visibility.”


A wide range of rear-vision technologies are available to fleets wishing to specify equipment that could help prevent backing incidents. The following is a summary of systems on the market:

ASA Electronics

(Autovox Specialized Application)


Voyager rear and side observation systems for truck applications include an entry-level package that features the VOM58 B/W 5.5-in. CRT observation monitor with an integral speaker, two camera inputs, backlit soft touch and day/night brightness controls, a reverse trigger, an external audio output jack and built-in circuit protection. In the premier package, the AOM703 7-in. color LCD monitor is standard with three inputs that enable images from rear and side body cameras. The system’s D.C. trigger allows the monitor to be tied to 12-volt impulses, which facilitates hookups to blinkers and reverse gear. The unit has a built-in speaker and backlit color/contrast brightness controls.



The Delphi Forewarn dual-beam radar back-up aid can be permanently or temporarily mounted on the rear of a vehicle. The system’s 24 GHz, dual-beam radar monitors up to a 20- by 9-ft.-wide area and provides audible and visual alerts to a driver when vehicles and other objects are detected in the blind spot. Distinct tones indicate the distance from the detected object.

Eaton Vorad


BackSpotter is a radar-based object detection system designed to alert a driver to obstacles behind the vehicle while in reverse. Effective in detecting objects in poor visibility, such as in fog, rain, snow, sun glare and at night, BackSpotter reports obstacles in a field of view up to 120 degrees with audible and visual alerts on the driver’s display unit, including range indications of the relative distance to the closest detected object and an increasing tone rate as the vehicle gets closer to an object. Compatible with 12- or 24-volt electrical systems, BackSpotter requires only two wiring connections to the vehicle.

Hindsight – PowerLinx


The Zone Defense system for heavy-duty trucks consists of small, environmentally sealed transmitter and receiver modules, which connect to the vehicle wiring harness, eliminating the need for separate transmission cables. Video from side- or rear-vision cameras is sent to the driver via PLC (power line carrier) for viewing on a flat-panel or green phosphorous video display.

Intec Video Systems


CarVision systems from Intec offer high-resolution images and a wide field of view. Intec manufactures a variety of safety cameras, including the 200 Series, designed for truck applications, that features cast aluminum construction. Shuttered cameras are also available with an automatic shield that immediately lifts as the camera is activated. The company’s XL Series of cameras, engineered for heavy- and extreme-duty environments, features military-spec moisture protection and industrial-strength construction. Intec’s color systems are available in standard and ex-treme-duty models, providing flat-panel imaging. For specialized viewing needs, color zoom and infrared cameras are offered.

KG Rear Vision


The SY1550GSS is a complete system that consists of a 5.5-in., heavy-duty Green Screen monitor, a 65-ft. cable and a waterproof black-and-white camera with Super CMOS technology that provides a wide-angle image under all conditions. Features of the system include automatic/manual push-button controls, normal/mirror image operation, and a built-in two-camera switcher.

K-10 Enterprises


New from K-10 is the Rotator, a rotating, rear-mount mirror bracket that allows the mirror to be folded away for vehicle storage or washing and then returned to a preset viewing position. An optional extension handle allows for easy mirror positioning without having to reach or climb onto the vehicle. Also offered by the company is its line of rear-mount mirror and bracket assemblies, and its 8- and 10-in. eyeball mirrors to provide added visibility to drivers along the right side of the vehicle.



Coupling Mico brake interlocks with a proximity radar sensor, the company’s rear-detection brake interlock system provides visual and audible signals to the driver when the vehicle backs within a predetermined distance of an obstacle and automatically applies the service brakes to stop the vehicle. Two systems are offered – one for hydraulic-braked vehicles and the other for air-braked vehicles. Both systems create a radar detection zone to identify stationary and moving objects that may be obscured from a driver’s view.

Rosco Inc.


ReBound rear cross-view mirrors for vans and trucks from Rosco feature a spring-loaded, auto-return mechanism that brings the mirror back to its original, properly adjusted position after an impact with an object. In addition, a contoured mirror arm protects the 11-in.-diameter mirror head, which is made from heavy-duty aluminum and polished stainless steel.

Also offered by Rosco are rear back-up cameras with audio and night vision capabilities in black-and-white and color models.

Safety Vision


Rear- and side-vision cameras and cab-mounted monitors from Safety Vision are designed to offer a wide field of view, according to the company. Also offered are mobile video surveillance systems to enhance driver safety and accountability and to create permanent, electronic safety-training aids. With the on-board systems, recorded video and audio can be used to determine liability in case of an accident or other incident.

Sonar Safety Systems Inc.



SSSI offers its rear obstacle detection systems, LCD and black-and-white camera systems and an integrated combination unit. The detection systems use ultrasonic technology to scan for objects behind the vehicle continuously and provide audible and visual warnings to the driver on an on-board display. The system’s control box is impact and shock resistant and waterproof, and detectors are protected by a rubber housing.

Sound Off Signal


Featuring Generation II LEDs and Sound Off Signal’s “Extreme Angle” optics, pure white LED lamps from the company can be used to enhance visibility during backing. Double-brightness back-up/reverse lamps offered include 4-in. round single and dual models in different variations, including rubber grommet and sealed connector/pigtail and security snap ring and sealed connector/pigtail designs.

Superior Signals


SuperSight collision avoidance systems are available in three variations, including black-and-white, color, and green-phosphor camera packages. Designed for use on tractor-trailers, refuse and utility trucks, among others, the systems can be configured with up to four cameras per monitor, allowing for forward and rear-vision capability.


Safety Technologies


The EagleEye Obstacle Detection System uses ultrasonic sensors to detect objects within 10 feet of the sides or rear of commercial vehicles. The system features include up to seven weather-resistant, heated sensors to melt snow or ice and ensure proper operation.



The RXV Rear Crossview mirror system is available in stainless steel and powder-coated galvanized steel finishes for a variety of vehicle types. For most walk-in van bodies and high-cube vehicles, the system includes a 10-in.-diameter, wide-view convex mirror head, a fully assembled and pre-positioned arm and mounting bracket and stainless-steel mounting hardware. FE


For over-the-road trucking applications, several safety technologies

have been designed to help drivers safely operate vehicles and avoid accidents.



The Delphi Forewarn lane departure warning system alerts drivers when they unintentionally drift out of their intended lane. A dash-mounted camera and image processing detects painted lane markers ahead of the vehicle. Alerts can be configured to include audible and/or visual warnings. Also available from Delphi is the Forewarn radar side alert system for detecting vehicles in the side blind spot when changing lanes and turning.

Eaton Vorad


The Eaton Vorad (vehicle on-board radar) obstacle detection and collision avoidance system includes Vorad forward collision warning that provides audio and visual alerts to drivers about objects up to 500 ft. ahead, even around curves. Vorad can detect and track up to 20 vehicles at a time. Also offered is the Vorad BlindSpotter side object detection system, which employs a sensor mounted anywhere alongside the vehicle to offer a 120-degree field of view. When an object is detected, a red light appears on the display installed in the line of sight with the side mirrors. If a turn signal is activated while the detection light is on, an audio signal warns the driver. An exclusive feature of Vorad, SmartCruise automatically reduces engine speed when vehicles get too close by defueling the engine and engaging the engine retarder..



The lane departure warning (LDW) system from Iteris uses a technology called “Machine Vision” to track a vehicle’s position relative to lane markings. Using image recognition software, the system can detect when a vehicle drifts toward an unintended lane change. When this occurs, the unit automatically emits a distinctive rumble-strip sound from the left or right speaker (depending on which way the vehicle is drifting), alerting the driver to make a correction. LDW is capable of detecting both solid and dashed lines, even if the lines are heavily faded.

Lane Scan


Integrated with power mirrors on trucks and tractors, LaneScan Go Zone provides blind-spot scanning at the push of a button, automatically returning the mirror to the original set point when the button is released. Go Zone, which can be retrofitted onto most trucks, includes a heated, powered mirror, a dash-mounted control unit and a remote activation button. Also offered is Auto View, which incorporates all of Go Zone’s features and automatically rotates the right mirror outward in proportion to the right rear corner of the trailer, allowing drivers to see the right side of the vehicle through a right turn of 75 degrees or more.

Smart Drive


A Web-based service, SmartDrive, enables fleets to address erratic driving by continuously recording events, such as speeding, tailgating and swerving. The system also records and saves data for 15 seconds before and 15 seconds after a collision for diagnostics and crash reconstruction purposes. The unit is mounted under the rear-view mirror and consists of two cameras – one pointing forward and one pointing at the driver.

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