Manoeuvring a truck requires the driver’s full attention and utmost concentration. Not only is it particularly difficult to navigate the large vehicles through the narrow streets of a town, but the many blind spots, especially in stop-and-go traffic, could cause drivers to overlook cyclists or pedestrians. Accidents with serious consequences occur time and time again when trucks are turning off. According to the General German Cycling Club (ADFC), 38 cyclists were killed in 2017 by trucks turning right – and that number is on the rise. New electronic turn assist systems that reliably warn the truck driver if there is a person or object in the blind spot in front of or beside the truck are aimed at remedying this situation.
Room for improvement.
The reliability of turn assist systems has so far left much to be desired. As early as 2019, the General German Automobile Club (ADAC) tested various systems, either as original equipment or in the form of retrofits. Several of the results were disillusioning. Although all the warnings were triggered, none of the turn assist systems could detect a cyclist if there were obstacles between the cycle lane and the truck lane, such as parked vehicles, trees or bushes. Robert Kroiß of the German Professional Drivers’ Association (DBV) also attests to the potential for improvement in turn assist systems. He stated that among other functions, they should be able to clearly identify persons or cyclists and reliably warn the driver, even in rainy weather with wet and misted mirrors. Kroiß concluded by saying that drivers frequently switch off the systems because of the high number of false alarms.
Continental with a simple retrofit solution.
Continental is now launching the radar-based RightViu® system, which is a simple but effective version for retrofitting. The system is attached to the vehicle or mirror extension arm at a height of 2 metres or more. It uses radar sensors to determine whether a road user is in the vehicle’s danger zone. Special VRU (Vulnerable Road User) software continuously interprets the data and warns the driver by means of acoustic and visual warning signals. RightViu® extends the driver’s view up to 4 m to the right and 14 m to the rear. “We’re convinced that our solution is the best system for reliably detecting cyclists in blind spots and differentiating them from other objects, thus preventing serious accidents. Unlike camera and ultrasound-based systems, the radar sensor technology optimised for our application detects whether the person in question is actually a cyclist or a pedestrian,” says Georg Kliewer, Head of Aftermarket Products for Special Vehicles at Continental.
Since 2018, the Turn Assist Campaign of the Federal German Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) has provided financial incentives for transport companies to voluntarily commit to using turn assist systems. The BMVI also launched the turn assist systems funding programme in May 2020. It provides financial support for the installation and retrofitting of turn assist systems. Since the general operating licence (ABE) has now been granted, RightViu® is basically eligible for funding. Transport companies which use toll roads can have their turn assist systems subsidised through the De-minimis Directive in the Measures Category 1.3. All other applicants can obtain specific funding from the BMVI turn assist funding programme.
RightViu® can be retrofitted to short and long vehicle models ranging from light commercial vehicles to those with very heavy tonnages. Installation, calibration and start-up are carried out by a specialist workshop. “The package is also very easy to install,” promises Kliewer.
Mandatory for long trucks since July.
Despite the obvious need for action, a uniform EU decision stipulating that all new vehicle types must be equipped with a turn assist system will not be introduced until 2022. From 2024 onwards, the regulation will then also apply to newly registered vehicles. However, the EU regulation comes too late for the BMVI because of the large number of avoidable accidents. This is why newly registered “long trucks” in Germany have had to be equipped with a turn assist system and flashing side marker lights since July 1, 2020. A “long truck” has a total length (with trailer) of up to 25.25 metres and a permissible gross vehicle weight of up to 44 tonnes.
An appeal to all road users.
The legal framework is in place and the technology is ready. However, it will be some time before all trucks are actually equipped with effective turn assist systems – so it is all the more important that road users make their own individual contributions to accident prevention until then. “The behaviour of many cyclists, who often travel at high speeds or are too close to the trucks at traffic lights, also increases the risk of accidents,” says Kroiß, who urges mutual consideration and caution.