Focusing on the blind spot: active collision awareness systems for mobile machines

Sep 29, 2017

With mobile machines, accidents often occur when maneuvering and backing up on construction sites, in surface and underground mining, and in agriculture and forestry, as well as with special and municipal vehicles. The Visionary-B CV 3D vision sensor is suitable for outdoor use and is designed to monitor the areas next to and behind mobile machines that are invisible to the driver. It is an active driver assistance system which reliably identifies people and objects in the drivers blind spot and issues collision warnings.  

Many collisions and accidents can be avoided if the machine operator is supported by suitable technology. Active warning functions are not enough. The assistance system must also be able to distinguish between different objects depending on their importance for collision awareness purposes.




Visionary-B CV has been designed as an active system: As soon as an object appears within a defined detection zone, the system issues an acoustic and visual signal. In contrast to passive monitoring solutions, the driver does not need to look at the monitor constantly. Instead, he can concentrate on driving the vehicle, safe in the knowledge that the system will warn him in good time if a potentially critical situation occurs.


Visionary-B CV: 3D collision awareness as plug and play system solution


The system consists of at least one sensor head, an evaluation unit, a 2D monitor, and all the mechanical and electrical components needed for installation. It is also a two-in-one solution, because it combines an active 3D sensor for collision awareness with an integrated 2D live camera. This means that the driver can also see a 2D live image and access recordings of the machines previous few hours of operation. When the system is installed at a height of between 1 m and 2.4 m, the detection angle of 105° x 90° enables it to cover an otherwise blind area behind the vehicle of 6 m in length and 4 m in width. The evaluation unit processes the 3D image data, assigns the objects to different classes on the basis of the measured values, and uses intelligent algorithms that enable it to ignore objects which are not likely to cause a collision. At the same time, it transmits the 2D live image and the alarm signals to the monitor in the machines cab, which issues both an acoustic and a visual warning.


Stereoscopic principle and 3D snapshot technology

To ensure that the collision awareness system is reliable and accepted by drivers, it is essential that it consistently identifies hazards and distinguishes them from the machines normal working environment. The object detection system, which is based on the stereoscopic principle, is what makes this possible. It can identify the presence of people and objects and measures their distance from the vehicle. Two cameras in the sensor head take images of the vehicles surroundings from slightly different positions. The evaluation system combines these two perspectives and calculates the depth of the images - the third dimension. Using this 3D image information, the 3D vision sensor can identify the width and height of objects. This allows the system to distinguish between people and objects that could cause a collision and those that cannot, for example, curbs or uneven ground. This means that the driver assistance system only warns the driver in truly critical situations.




The flexible configuration of alarm zones also makes it possible to distinguish between different types of warnings so that the driver can respond accordingly. This means that the Visionary-B CV system reliably prevents faulty alarms. The driver is only notified if the situation is genuinely critical.


Designed for high availability in tough outdoor environments

The Visionary-B CV driver assistance system is highly rugged and designed for outdoor use in the many different types of environments where mobile machines operate. The sensor housing has an IP69K enclosure rating and can withstand ambient temperatures between −40 °C and +75 °C. It also meets high standards of shock and vibration resistance. The evaluation unit, which can often be installed in the safer setting of the drivers cab, has an IP67 enclosure rating and a temperature range of −20 °C to +40 °C. It has also been designed for a long service life and can withstand challenging conditions. The algorithms have been tested in practice and therefore ensure that direct sunlight, rain, road surfaces that are damp and shiny, and other environmental influences do not prevent the unit from detecting objects reliably or the system from issuing collision warnings.


Mobile machines offer a wide range of possible applications



The different types of mobile machines provide a variety of interesting applications for the Visionary-B CV outdoor driver assistance system. For example, the version with two alternating sensor heads can be used in excavators to monitor the area behind the machine and the area to the side where the drivers view is blocked by the excavator arm. Front loaders, dump trucks, and rollers are typical examples of construction and mining machines that can be operated much more safely using SICKs active driver assistance system. Visionary-B is also a valuable addition for drivers of agricultural and forestry machines. It can detect possible hazards and sources of accidents in good time and send an active warning to the driver. A reduction in the damage caused to vehicles also means reduced downtime and high levels of availability, which is particularly beneficial during crucial times of year, such as harvest. In special and municipal vehicles, such as those used for collecting recycled materials, for example, Visionary-B CV constantly monitors the drivers blind spot and provides active support when the vehicle is maneuvering.




In addition to the examples described, there are many other possible applications for this advanced driver assistance system. Visionary-B can be installed at any time in existing vehicle models. All the variants can be fitted in new vehicles by the manufacturer, but they are also available as easy-to-configure complete solutions for retrofitting or as dealer options.


Visionary-B PS for even greater flexibility

Visionary-B CV delivers the very data required for effective driver assistance and is tailored to collision avoidance for mobile machines. With Visionary-B PS, the Visionary-B product family will soon include another variant which allows customers to also tackle other applications according to their needs. In terms of data quality and ruggedness, the Visionary-B PS possesses the same qualities as the Visionary-B CV. However, it also provides the 3D raw data, object classes and positions, as well as the 2D camera image, which the evaluation unit provides as a data stream via Ethernet. A monitor is thus not required with this variant. The combination of the 3D raw data, 2D camera image, and the preprocessed data in the form of object positions and classes means that it can tackle a multitude of applications - such as monitoring the terrain when felling trees, checking the condition of grain, providing guidance through the vineyard, deicing airplane wings, or positioning containers in ports. As a result, particularly processes carried out under rough outdoor conditions can be designed to be more efficient, precise, and environmentally friendly.