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    Credit: MICO Inc.

    The radar system, mounted on the back of the vehicle, monitors the distance from objects and sends an alert to the cab. When the vehicle reaches the preset distance from an object, the brake system is automatically engaged.

Anyone who has tried to back up a truck using only the side mirrors knows visibility can be an issue. Evolving automotive safety technologies have produced safety features ranging from seatbelts and airbags to improved headlights and tire traction. Now, a new development uses two established technologies to help prevent accidents while driving in reverse.

Brake-lock systems have been used for years as a supplemental parking brake, often implemented in boom trucks to prevent vehicle movement when someone is working on the platform. A new system combines this brake-lock technology with radar detection to help prevent collisions (to see a diagram of how the system works, click here). The system detects an object within a preset distance from the vehicle and automatically activatesthe brake-lock system. The device holds the potential to save lives, prevent injuries, safeguard equipment, and reduce costly vehicle downtime without interfering with a truck's operation.

The safety implications are significant. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study found that straight trucks involved in backing incidents result in an average of 79 fatalities and 148 injuries each year. NHTSA called that estimate "conservative" because many work-place incidents—a significant source of backing accidents—go unreported. Furthermore, the nonprofit organization Kids and Cars reported that, between 2001 and 2005, 49% of non-traffic, non-crash fatalities involving children younger than 15 were caused by vehicle backover incidents.

The combination brake-lock and radar detection systems are available for air and hydraulic brake systems. The hydraulic brake version adds an electrohydraulic brake-lock system to the truck. The air brake system incorporates a solenoid air valve that redirects energy within the system. Both versions use a radar object detection sensor.