Article by: Rajesh Rajgor

With camera monitoring systems finding their way into passenger cars, the time is not far when they will find their way into commercial vehicles to help the driver get a 360-degree view.

A leading tier 1 supplier in India is said to be in discussion with MEKRA Lang to ink a joint venture. If the discussion reaches its logical conclusion, MEKRA Lang and the respective Tier 1 supplier are likely to go to the market with Camera Monitoring Systems (CMS), lighting systems, mirrors and plastics for a variety of automobiles, including commercial vehicles. Based in Germany, MEKRA Lang claims to be a leading manufacturer of surround vision systems for commercial vehicles. Its product portfolio includes a near infinite system variations in the field of CMS. Winning a supplier award for camera vision systems in 2011 from MAN Truck and Bus AG, MEKRA Lang has had a long experience in vision systems for automobiles. In an effort to replace mirror-based vision system for trucks that is known to suffer from a disadvantage of blind spots, MEKRA Lang has worked with MAN to replace rear view mirrors with CMS. MAN also on its part, worked with the Institute of Ergonomics at the Technische University, Munich, to develop a cabin-intensive camera vision systems concept. The same was displayed by the truck maker at the 2014 IAA Commercial Vehicle show at Hannover.

Interest in CMS is growing in Europe and USA. Daimler’s US truck brand Freightliner ran a self-driving truck on Nevada’s public roads. The truck used a complex stereo camera and radar system to keep to the lane and maintain a safe distance, including the need to stop and proceed. The run followed a mandate from the US Department of Transportation for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), that new vehicles under 4,500kg are to be equipped with rear view cameras by 2018. For the inspiration truck run, Daimler requested the US Federal Government to revise regulations in order to replace rear view mirrors with Camera-Monitor Systems (CMS). The current motor policy asks for rear view mirrors. Daimler North America in its petition is known to have mentioned that CMS can achieve the same or better level of safety as outside rear view mirrors in providing the driver a view to the rear along both sides of the vehicle, but with enhanced environmental benefits, especially for large trucks.

Enhanced visibility

Apart from improving the surrounding visibility, CMS, researchers claim, also helps to enhance the vehicle’s ability to cheat the wind. Consisting of an electronic imager (camera), an intelligent Electronic Control Unit (ECU) and a display (monitor), CMS is said to provide the same level of functionality that a rear view mirror, or a set of rear view mirrors provide. What makes a CMS stand out is its ability to build different types of images with the use of different lenses. Presenting an ability to designers to design a vehicle that is more aerodynamic and provides the driver with a good vision around him, CMS also helps to compensate for the limitations of the driver. Right positioning of the display in the cabin is therefore important as much as it is for the cameras to be placed on the outside. The Pro Viu range of CMS from Continental enhances surround safety, as does the high vision camera-based systems from Australia-based, Truck Rear Vision Systems (TRVS). It is worth mentioning a project Volvo Trucks carried with the help of Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, in 2013. The project looked into the future layouts of visual information in Volvo Trucks and evaluated the practical aspects of CMS in the cabins of the trucks.

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Article by: Rajesh Rajgor
Comprehending the technology

Apart from the ‘right’ placement of the cameras and the display screens, further evolution of CMS is creating a need for one that allows brightness to be adjusted such that the display does not prove to be a hindrance during night driving. Then, there’s the issue of depth of vision. The driver looks at the surrounding area by moving his eyes, and also by tilting and turning his head. To reduce head movements the visual information is expected to be placed as close as possible to his line of sight. This can also minimise the time required for the driver to comprehend
the visuals.

A CMS will therefore have to take into consideration details pertaining to different views like, left rear view, right rear view, wide angle view, close-up front view and a bird’s eye view. A combined view will help in effectively manoeuvring the truck or a bus. Successful employment of CMS in a truck or a bus also involves evaluation at different speeds, at different times of the day, at different camera angles, with the lights on or off, during bad weathers, etc. Researchers are also focusing on how to train drivers to read the display and comprehend it. Human behavioral issues are a challenge for certain. Drivers would need to unlearn the basics of traditional viewing and get used to grasping new visual data by training their minds. Given that the human mind has its limitations, drivers can thus get distracted easily, even when they are looking at the road ahead. Correct placement of CMS components can aid in eliminating such error.

Pros and Cons

Claimed to reduce the aerodynamic drag co-efficient and therefore fuel consumption, CMS also offers an environmental advantage in terms of lower energy usage and lower emissions. With numerous aspects to consider in case of a CMS system and its application in a commercial vehicle, in terms of challenge it is the way the screen is positioned inside the cabin, and how the driver will be able to best decipher the information will take precedence. It is perhaps in view of this challenge, that some researchers are of the opinion, that the information captured by the cameras should be presented close to the actual line of sight to reduce distractions and increase readability. This however contradicts the fact that information placed near the line of sight to reduce distractions from head movement may disturb the direct vision for the driver. There are laws and regulations for most of the units and informative systems in a cabin of a vehicle. They may differ from country to country, and from region to region. The need therefore is to understand the local applications needs without exceeding the brief put in place by the law of that land. Both direct and indirect vision needs to follow strict regulation of the land, as it is true of any new solutions that provides visual information to the driver. A word of caution from the experts therefore is, that drivers should not solely rely on cameras to view their surroundings and blind spots as a primary source. They should use the CMS as an assisting technology instead.

Despite the advent and increasing use of CMS technology, rear view mirrors may not fade away quickly. As an integrated approach to improve the vision of the driver grows, the likely outcome is a combination of cameras and mirrors that complement each other, and are thus positioned such that they offer a 360-degree view. With the use of CMS, rear view mirrors could reduce in size, thus freeing up the space near the front pillars for the driver to have a better view. Especially when he is negotiating turns and driving in and out of blind corners.

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