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March 08, 2010
'Eagle Eye' Keeps Accidents Out of Sight

Device Has Sensors that Warn of Possible Danger

Vehicle accidents are dangerous and costly for employers across all industries. Transportation Safety Technologies is an Indianapolis-based company that produces the Eagle Eye Obstacle Detection System, as well as other types of electronic devices for specialty commercial and military vehicles.

According to CEO Fred Merritt and sales and marketing chief Kirk Knobel, the Eagle Eye alerts drivers to objects hidden in vehicle blind spots and “no zones” up to 20 feet away.

They say that makes turning and backing less risky and collisions easier to avoid. The product has been in use for nearly a decade by companies such as Pepsi, Terminix, Culligan Water, and Sysco Foods, and Amtrak, among many others.

Seeing Where a Driver Cannot

Merritt and Knobel explain that a “blind spot” on a commercial vehicle is really a blind area. A small car passing on the right can seem to appear out of nowhere. A motorcyclist or child on a tricycle can be out of view as far as 25 feet away. And a parked car or the side of a building can be much closer than they appear in a mirror.

What distinguishes Eagle Eye from single-warning products is that it offers both visual and audible warnings. This is done by attaching specialty sensors at preferred points around the vehicle.

The number and location of sensors are based on the type of vehicle and driving conditions. A Class 8 truck (one that weights over 33,000 pounds) could be outfitted with as many as many 10 sensors around the truck.

The sensors are based on ultrasonic technology and even work when they become caked with dirt and grime. Individual internal heaters are engineered into the sensors to keep them operating in temperatures as low as 40 degrees below zero.

Says Knobel: “We protect the sides and rear of the vehicle where the driver cannot see easily.” For example, if the driver shifts into reverse and puts on the vehicle’s turn signal, an onboard display will indicate if an object is behind, or on the left or the right for a given number of feet. An audible alert will sound as well. As the driver backs up and closes in on an object, that alert changes in frequency and decibel level.

With camera-only systems, the driver is only aware of a problem if he or she happens to be facing forward and looking at the screen on the dashboard.

During backing, a visual indicator is not enough. The audible alert works in tandem with the visual alert; a driver hears the words “right side” at the same time an LED message appears on the screen.

The sensors used in the Eagle Eye are sealed and highly durable. Merritt says the sensors are so tough that they can even withstand the acid wash used to clean the cement off of cement trucks. “It’s geared to an over-the-road, harsh environment compared to the commercial unit you can buy off the shelf.” Transportation Safety Technologies sells the Eagle Eye Obstacle Detection System to manufacturers and as after-market equipment.

Merritt and Knobel say the product is saving lives as well as money. Users report reductions in their accident-related costs ranging from 70 percent to 95 percent.

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