SmartDrive releases new driver alert systems: Bad weather and parked vehicles

SmartDrive is rolling out two new products aimed at increasing driver safety, but unlike its other safety-focused core product, the new ones won’t involve cameras directly.

Instead, they will be fed by actual and virtual sensors, combining data to provide drivers with information on safety hazards they might encounter on the road.

The first product, SmartSense for Speeding for Conditions, will be powered by data that combines changing information on weather conditions with the contours of the road a driver is facing, and will tell those drivers about the risks ahead.

The second is SmartSense for Sitting Duck, though in a conference call with the media, SmartDrive COO Jason Palmer simply called the product Sitting Duck. As SmartDrive described it, it will “detect and report” vehicles that are sitting on the side of the road or in some other “potentially hazardous location,” and then push data out to its users in the cab “so immediate, corrective action can be taken.”

In a conference call with reporters, Palmer said the new products are not just extensions to its existing camera technology, but rather completely separate safety systems that will use the SmartDrive platform to alert customers about danger on the road ahead. 

In the case of the Speeding for Conditions product, SmartDrive will utilize data “streaming” from the truck, including from sensors on the vehicle itself. It will look for three “primary conditions … that can impact a driver’s ability to operate the vehicle” safely, Palmer said: heavy rain, snow or fog. By combining that knowledge with map technology, “it gives us an opportunity to alert the driver as conditions are changing so they can be reminded and think that they may have to slow down,” he said in the conference call. 

Knowledge of the road through the map technology, Palmer said, allows the system to alert drivers that they may be coming up to a curve made particularly dangerous by the weather conditions. 

“This is one of the first real-time analytic solutions to combine these different combinations of elements in real time, and to provide an alert to a fleet and driver of these pending conditions,” Palmer said.

As for Sitting Duck, Palmer said the data flowing into SmartDrive’s cloud “is detecting whether a vehicle is stopped or parked. We provide that information in real time to our fleet in a few minutes.” Users of the system are then provided with “intelligence alerts” that let them know that a driver might be coming upon a parked truck soon, particularly if it is in a place where it’s not expected to be. 

The issue is not just one of trucks being illegally parked. In the media conference call, Brett Sant, senior vice president for safety and risk management at Knight-Swift Transportation, said on the call. He had been brought on by SmartDrive to talk about the system since the Knight segment at Knight-Swift had tested it out. 

“There have been many incidents where our vehicle was legally parked and in many cases it really hasn’t mattered that the driver was legally parked,” Santt said. “A serious crash ensued.”

The overall goal is “to try and push that traffic as much as possible out of the situation,” Sant added.

But Sitting Duck is not to be used just to warn a driver of a truck parked on the road that they might not be aware of otherwise. In the prepared statement that accompanied the announcement of the two products, Sant says the technology “helps us protect our drivers by alerting management that they may need help. We can then quickly advise our driver on how to handle the situation and, if necessary, provide support — or send assistance — and get them back on the road safely.”

Palmer said the various sensors throughout the SmartDrive system can trigger a warning that a vehicle is stopped on the side of the road in as little as 10 minutes after it ended up there. “We’ll issue a message to the fleet that we detected that situation, and we will also request video to be offloaded from that vehicle,” he said. Updates will continue to be streamed as long as the vehicle is parked, Palmer added.

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