Wireless Technologies

See-through trucks: Samsung joins the road accidents fight

Argentina has some of the worst road accident figures in South America, according to the Road Safety Annual Report in 2014, published by the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group (IRTAD).

Seat belt use in Argentina is often seen as “almost voluntary” with figures of people actually wearing their seat belts in urban and highway settings being less than ideal.

Another huge issue for road users in Argentina is the country’s many single lane roads, which makes overtaking larger vehicles especially dangerous. This is why Samsung felt it was the best ground to test its “Safety Truck” feature.

Using a large 18-wheeler test truck, Samsung’s front mounted camera captures footage of the truck’s view and displays the live video for any drivers coming up behind and trying to overtake the truck.

It’s a novel idea, and a pretty good one at that, but whether or not it will catch on or if road authorities in various different countries will like the idea remains to be seen. It is further evidence though of how technology is trying to tackle problems that are decades old like road accidents.

Samsung’s tests in Argentina have already concluded and now it’s looking at how it can proceed while complying with traffic regulations. “The next step is to perform the corresponding tests in order to comply with the existing national protocols and obtain the necessary permits and approvals,” said the company. “For this, Samsung is working together with safe driving NGOs and the government.”

At this point the technology comes across as a little bit of a gimmick and unworkable in a practical sense but bear in mind that this is still in its early stages and will need many new tests.

In a strange turn of events, the screens, as they are, could almost serve as a distraction when drivers first lay their eyes on them, possibly leading to a crash. Samsung will need to consult heavily with authorities and other researchers on getting the balance right.

Developing new technology to make driving safer has existed almost as long as cars themselves but in the last few years, the efforts have become more innovative (or even novel). Hands-free technology is the most ubiquitous and most common but recent research has cast doubts on hands-free tech that goes beyond simply taking a call, such as dictating messages to Siri.

According to research from the AAA Foundation, a non-profit working towards greater road safety, and the University of Utah, there are some stark differences between using technology like speech-to-text systems and simply talking with someone in the passenger seat. “Imperfect systems” can cause cognitive distractions and while they are of course safer than holding a phone to your ear while driving, taking the technology for granted can lead to potentially fatal distractions.

This has raised concerns over new offerings from the tech giants getting involved in cars like Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay; and while driverless cars are often heralded as the safe future of transport they are many, many years away.

In the face of growing technology and concerns, South America has still typically lagged behind other continents when it comes to car safety.

Brazil opened up its first crash test site in 2014, which has been called “a very important step for the future of auto safety and regulation in Brazil and across Latin America” while in 2010 the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) was extended to South America and the Caribbean, which gives consumers a view of car safety and standards when making their purchase. Despite these advances, crashes and car safety are still at poor levels according to statistics from the last few years.

South America may have a serious road safety problem but it is not completely unique. Road safety is a universal issue and start-ups across the globe have been trying to find new ways of making driving safer.

Israel’s Mobileye has developed a sensor that monitors potential collisions with other cars or pedestrians that have stepped out onto the road. In India, another country with worrying crash figures, start-ups have tried to tackle the issue through effective classes for learner drivers like Drivekool, which aggregates driving lesson services and gets the best times and prices for the learner.

Safe driving is yet another older problem that new technology is struggling to properly solve. Most accidents are caused by human error and bridging that gap with the right technology is a great idea but highly challenging and no technology is perfect, something Samsung is sure to realise.


Other reading:

TraumaHawk: Iowa app helps model car crash injuries

Will using your Apple Watch land you a traffic ticket?



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Jonathan Keane

Jonathan Keane is a freelance journalist, living in Ireland, covering business and technology

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