It’s a scenario most drivers have faced: there’s a giant, slow-moving 18-wheeler in front of you. You want to pass it. But what exactly is going on in front of the truck? You can’t see around it and can’t see what’s happening in the lane next to it. So to pass the truck, you need to take a bit of a leap of faith, and no driver wants to take a leap of faith while moving 60 miles per hour on a highway. Samsung might have a solution — but will it truly address the problem?
Samsung recently unveiled what they call the Safety Truck, designed to combat the problem of reduced sight when trying to pass a large truck. It consists of a very large screen, which takes up almost the entire back panel of the truck, and a small wireless webcam on the front of the truck. The webcam’s feed goes straight to the back screen, which means anyone driving behind the truck can see what the truck driver sees in the front.
“Usually, a car has to enter the [neighboring] traffic lane for the driver to see what's there. A little like sticking one's head in an elevator shaft to see if the car is coming — not a good idea,” says Mitch Cohen of Bric Security, which makes integrated, web-hosted security solutions. “This is an interesting and useful innovation.” But there are certainly some concerns about exactly how safe the system would be.
For one, it could be distracting for drivers. A webcam feed of the road in front of the truck isn’t as exciting as, say, the new episode of “Game of Thrones,” but it could still be distracting to see a giant moving picture, like a drive-in movie, directly in front of your windshield. In most states, video viewing is explicitly prohibited while driving for this very reason.
Cohen also worries about drivers’ peripheral vision reading the screen as real life. “An impaired driver might think there is a clear road ahead, and then plow into the truck’s rear,” he sayin a sort of very unfunny version of the famous “Looney Tunes” gag in which the Road Runner paints a view of a road on a brick wall and Wile E. Coyote slams into it, thinking it’s a real road. Cohen suggests that making the screen black and white, or simply exaggerating the truck’s identifying elements, like its brake lights, could help that issue.
Another issue, one that Samsung will have to work hard to combat, is the problem of lag in these sorts of devices. A device like this needs to transmit the image instantaneously to the back screen to be of any use; a difference of only a fraction of a second between what’s shown on the screen and real life could make for car accidents. “Many CCTV systems, particularly IP cameras, have inherent latency,” says Cohen. “That is to say, there is a certain delay between the actual image and the time it's shown on the screen. Some are as high as a second, while others are negligible.”
If Samsung can get the lag down to something that’s not noticeable by the driver, this could be an amazing, possibly life-saving invention. Samsung says they’re currently working to obtain permits from the proper governmental agencies to move the product forward.