By Jason Palmer, COO, SmartDrive Systems Inc.
Risk Comes from All Angles
On any given day, there are approximately 660,000 drivers who check their phones while driving. Coupled with other distractions and road/traffic conditions, both passenger and commercial vehicles are at risk for collisions. One minute a passenger car may be in its own lane, but in sheer moments a distraction can cause the vehicle to swerve or brush up against the side of a commercial truck or bus. The driver may not necessarily feel or even see the impact of the passenger’s hit in this situation. Thus the accident may go undocumented, increasing the fleet’s operational costs and time spent on resolving claims/exonerating the driver when damage is discovered.
Similarly, ready-mix and other construction vehicles often operate in confined spaces and frequently back into locations to unload. Backing incidents are fairly common with these types of vehicles, yet it’s very difficult to determine what exactly happened and how damage was sustained. Additionally, the tilted, rotating drum and heavy concrete makes ready-mix vehicles, in particular, highly susceptible to rollovers, which are extremely dangerous in terms of possible injury to drivers, other motorists and pedestrians – as well as significant property damage. Video coverage that spans the entire vehicle is critical to understanding what happened, and how incidents can be avoided in the future.
Approximately 40-65 percent of collisions happen behind the driver. Without a broader perspective of what actually occurred, drivers can become tangled up in the minutia of resolving claims or defending themselves when not at fault. Even if a fleet has adopted road- and driver-facing video technology, this will do little in proving what happened in the case of side and rear collisions, or backing incidents. Having a complete, 360-view of the entire vehicle is necessary to gain a full understanding of what took place and quickly exonerate the driver.
Getting the Complete Picture
Fleet operators who prioritize their drivers’ safety must embrace video technology that incorporates blind-spot cameras, in addition to cab- and road-facing cameras. For example, in the case of rear-end collisions, having four cameras can demonstrate that the fleet’s driver was doing everything correctly—hands were correctly positioned on the wheel, driving sans distractions—while also capturing when (and why) the collision happened. The enhanced visibility that 360-degree video technology provides can shed even more insight to incidents and the situations drivers face every day, ensuring maximum protection of drivers and fleet assets.
In addition to leveraging 360-degree video technology for driver coaching and exoneration purposes, more and more original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are developing “God’s eye cameras”—video-technology that completely replaces mirrors. This technology provides drivers with a complete view of their surroundings while also improving fuel efficiency by streamlining the design of the vehicle. OEMs such as Stoneridge, are gearing their video technology to be accessible to the driver inside of the cab on LCD screens. While technologies—such as Stoneridge’s MirrorEye—are still in early stages of development, there is great promise for fleets that invest in video technology to perform multiple functions, such as replacing side-mirrors and capturing footage for the purposes of driver coaching and exoneration.
The risk of incidents—especially side swipes, rear end collisions and backing incidents—will always be present. But having a 360-degree view and access to the video on-demand can exonerate drivers and keep the fleet moving with minimal interruption.
Jason Palmer is Chief Operating Officer at SmartDrive Systems. Palmer has more than 20 years of leadership experience delivering products to market for fast-growing technology companies such as Qualcomm, Now Software, Clientele Software, Webtrends and Tut Systems. He has an extensive background in product development and go-to-market strategy development, and, as a founding member of the 800.com Electronics management team, he pioneered selling consumer electronics online, growing the company to $50 million in four years.