DRIVING/TOWING - 4WD DRIVING SKILLS
Cameras can give drivers much needed help in today’s heavy traffic conditions, but there’s no way to retrofit the latest vehicles’ camera-activated autonomous braking into older vehicles. However, some camera-based technology can be fitted to any vehicle.
There’s no doubt that autonomous braking on all vehicles would reduce the number and severity of rear end collisions. The latest voice to support this action is Toll Group’s MD, Michael Byrne, who wrote to the Prime Minister in January to that effect.
However, given the current Commonwealth Government’s reluctance to adopt policy on almost anything except tax handouts to the rich, this request for funding to implement such systems on existing vehicles will almost certainly be ignored.
Autonomous braking has been mandatory on European vehicles for years and the EEC’s vehicle fleet is much younger than the Australian average. So, even if Australia enforced autonomous braking on all new vehicles, it would be many years before the benefits were widespread.
Retrofitting autonomous braking isn’t easy, or cheap, but there’s a relatively easy retrofit tool that at least warns drivers of lane departure and impending collisions, so they can brake or take avoiding action.
We’ve tested Mobileye camera installations in several trucks and light vehicles and we think the system has definite safety benefits.
Unlike simpler dash cam units that can also give driver warnings of inadvertent lane change and posted speed limits the Mobileye system is much more sophisticated and, therefore, more expensive.
Some Mobileye functions can be turned off, but critical ones – forward collision warning and pedestrian collision warning red light icons and loud beepers – cannot be turned off or muted.Tailgating warning and lane departure warning can be adjusted for sensitivity and distance and can be muted.
Where a dash cam is temporarily attached to the windscreen or dashboard the Mobileye camera is permanently mounted and wired, and is calibrated to the vehicle parameters.
Each installation is referenced live on the internet to Mobileye’s global database and the technician measures vehicle wheel width, camera height and distance to the bonnet. This calibration takes about two hours.
Mobileye connects directly to the vehicle via a CAN-Bus and reads speed and blinker, brake and wiper action.
Where a dashcam may give annoying lane change warnings when a wide vehicle is running in narrow traffic lanes the Mobileye system adjusts sensitivity to limit the warnings. Also, the Mobileye unit ‘knows’ when the direction indicators are activated and doesn’t warn of a lane change.
Another significant difference is that Mobileye detects its own degree of vision and warns the driver of limited visibility when there’s grime on the windscreen, partially blocking the camera lens.
Optional Mobileye functions include brake light activation when a forward collision warning sounds, even before the driver has hit the brakes; intelligent, light-responsive high beam; vibration feedback into the driver’s seat or steering column in conjunction with audible and visible warnings; and sounding of the horn in conjunction with the pedestrian collision alert.
Dash cam uses GPS for speed measurement, introducing a delay in accurate readings and when the vehicle is in a tunnel, in a city with tall buildings or operating in very poor weather – all factors that affect satellite line-of-sight – speed readout won’t be reliable or may not be available.
Our test Mobileye had no GPS and no ‘clock’, so it didn’t provide vehicle location or store data, like a dash cam does. However, when fitted to a telematics-equipped vehicle a great amount of data is available.
Mobileye was designed from the outset to integrate with OEM or after-market telematics systems that do offer GPS location. In 2005 Volvo and BMW were the first OEM clients and now the list embraces 25 more, including GM, Ford, Hyundai, Honda, Mitsubishi, PSA, Scania, Kia and Mazda. There are more than 24 million vehicles on global roads with Mobileye technology.
In late 2017 Intel purchased the then Israeli company Mobileye and significant new product developments are in the pipeline, including autonomous vehicle equipment and fine-detail mapping.
We drove five different Isuzu trucks fitted with Mobileye cameras back in 2015. These installations were supervised by Isuzu Australia’s chief engineer of product strategy, Simon Humphries, and integrated with Isuzu’s Australian-market telematics digital audiovisual equipment (DAVE) system, developed by Melbourne-based Directed Electronics.
The telematics system provided: live vehicle tracking, daily activity summary, journey playback, locate nearest vehicle, time at locations, working hours, out of hours driving, driving violations, driver score report, route adherence, no-go areas, tamper alert, battery disconnect alert, panic button, hardware diagnostic support; service scheduling, odometer, trip odometer, brake actuation count, clutch use, ‘green band’ time, engine
over-speed, fuel consumption, idle time, vehicle over-speed and engine hours, engine load percentage, accelerator position, cruise control time, coolant temperature, gear position and duration, and reversing time.
Mobileye’s camera added road sign reading and the lane changing and proximity warnings already described above.
The only indication of a camera checking every facet of driving came when the driver did something wrong, such as moving out of a traffic lane without signalling by indicator, or getting too close to the vehicle in front.
The Mobileye readout blinked in response and a loud beep notified the driver of his transgression!
Since this 2015 Isuzu test we’ve had additional three-month traffic-driving experience with a Mobileye installation in our own Suzuki Grand Vitara that doesn’t have telematics
and in a Citroen C3 that does.
We’ve appreciated the sign recognition function that displays the last seen speed sign, eliminating the need to remember the myriad speed changes that our lawmakers institute – probably as much for revenue as for road safety!
The forward collision display changes from a green car icon to a red one at an adjustable gap we’ve set at 1.4 seconds. If the gap gets closer the alarm sounds, but it doesn’t intrude inappropriately in normal stop-start suburban driving conditions.
We’ve had some experience with Scania’s on-board driver evaluation system and we know that the only way to achieve a top driving score is to obey every road rule and speed limit, avoid hard acceleration and braking, and anticipate road and traffic conditions – all the while ensuring that trip times aren’t adversely affected.
Driving smoothness isn’t an aim for its own sake, but smoothness avoids excessive brake and tyre wear, and driveline shock.
Smoothness is also the key to optimum fuel consumption, by limiting engine revs when possible and feathering the accelerator rather than having to brake.
The Mobileye system is a great tool for achieving smooth driving, even in the case of vehicles that don’t have telematics.
Still a place for the dash cam
Dashboard cameras are proving
increasingly popular among vehicle owners, anxious to have video recording of road incidents, to support legal or insurance claims.
Dash cams also give driving behavior warnings, but they’re not as sophisticated as those from a Mobileye system. Most buyers want dash cams for their accident-recording function.
Uniden dash cam models can record in full high definition 1080p, 2K (1296p), 2.7K (1524p) or even 4K (2160p) formats. With footage lock protection and a wide viewing angle, ranging from 120-150 degrees, the dash cams can film in detail around most of a vehicle.
In the case of a parked vehicle an in-built parking sensor automatically starts recording if vehicle motion or vibration is detected. The rear camera on Uniden 50R and 70R iGo models provides a viewing angle of incidents that occur behind the vehicle.
Driver-assist features include a large speedo display, speed/red light camera warning, lane departure warning and a low lux sensor that detects low external light and alerts the driver to turn on the headlights.
Detailed vehicle motion is captured via a GPS geotag and three-axis g-sensor, including direction of travel, location, vehicle speed and g-force impact in three dimensions. On the iGO Cam 80, Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) balances the light on days of high contrast and at night when oncoming or overhead lights are bright, capturing sharper footage.
Footage is stored on an SD card and the iGO Cam 70R and iGO Cam 80, with inbuilt Wi-Fi, allow users to share footage to a smart phone via a dedicated Uniden iGO app.