Operating a tractor-trailer rig is fraught with uncertainty in any kind of setting. But it gets a lot worse when entering the cramped quarters typical of many delivery points, causing safety risk to skyrocket. Working with Spartan Radar, Phillips Connect is adding advanced sensing capability to give drivers a new level of situational awareness of hazards beside and behind the trailer.
When a trucker is backing up to a loading dock behind your neighborhood grocery store, for instance, there are innumerable potential obstacles – like parked cars, bicycles propped here and there, other trucks, and grocery store workers wandering around talking on their phone while having a cigarette during their break.
Not only that. Just getting to the loading dock can have its hazards, such as a tight intersection in a shopping center designed for cars which is treacherous for a very large tractor-trailer rig. A small miscalculation can result in severe tire damage if a trailer tire scrapes the curb.
Phillips Connect, a leader in the TrailerTech space, sees a way through these challenges so that bumps, scratches, and tragedies no longer occur, partnering with radar sensor software company Spartan Radar.
The Phillips family of companies includes Phillips Industries, Phillips Connect and Phillips Innovations. Phillips Connect focuses on monitoring key trailer data, such as location, temperature, status of running lights, fault codes, and more. A fleet running 2000 trailers 400 miles a day will see a cost savings of over $1M per year, according to Phillips.
Spartan Radar has developed software that can be applied to today’s radars to “unlock the full value of radar for the safe and reliable movement of people and things.” Spartan notes that their offering can detect moving and stationary objects while reducing nuisance and false alerts.
The Phillips-Spartan collaboration will bring a new level of object detection, assisted docking, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping, and cargo monitoring into the Phillips product line.
Given all the sophistication in the vehicle space, one has to ask the question — why haven’t truck drivers had the benefit of sophisticated sensing on the trailer for many years? It’s complicated. The big freight carriers own the “power units,” i.e. the truck tractors, but they don’t own the trailers they pick up. Trailers connect and disconnect from trucks like we do when we jump in and out of ride-hail vehicles when exploring a big new city. When technology is added to a trailer, the trailer owner has to cover the cost, even though the safety benefit accrues mainly to the owner of the tractor.
Cameras have entered TrailerTech in recent years, providing value to the driver. Phillips says it’s another world of safety when the radar sensor can both see and detect a hazard. Drivers maneuvering through complex spaces are processing their world on several levels at once. A nearby pedestrian on rainy day may not be prominent on the camera feed and can be missed.
What are the market forces driving trailers to get smarter? This tracks with the sensing systems getting more sophisticated while reducing cost. Both asset owners benefit: avoiding trailer damage for the trailer owner as well as enhancing safety for the operator of the truck tractor.
Regarding this new partnership, Rob Phillips, CEO of the Phillips family of companies, said, “We are always looking for ways to provide more value to our customers and make our roads safer for everyone. This partnership with Spartan is a huge step in that direction. There are many opportunities to continue to evolve technology in our space, and I am excited to see what we can do together.”
Dr. Matt Markel, CEO of Spartan Radar, said, “We see more and more types of safety features rolling out for passenger cars, now let’s bring the fantastic combination of radar and vision to commercial vehicles. The partnership between Phillips and Spartan will not only save lives but our technologies will save time and money for fleets around the globe.”
Potentially, future products could leverage these sensors to not only warn the driver of a potential issue, but also to trigger automated responses, such as automated docking/parking, curb running mitigation, and automated braking. Phillips says the new electrical interfaces now being considered by standards organizations will allow this level of integration with the operating system of the truck, further enhancing the value of trailer-based active sensing.