Accidents that involve 18-wheelers have turned up in the news increasingly. Some surveys suggest there are roughly two semi-truck accidents across the nation per hour each day.
Of course, this includes lesser incidents with minor damage that aren’t widely reported, but it’s a large number of accidents that involve costly damage, and sometimes cost lives.
There haven’t been major changes in semi-truck technology in many years, and 18-wheeler mechanical failure is a leading cause of accidents in the US. Perhaps this is a sign that it’s time to rethink the design of semi trucks altogether. This has already been under consideration for several years, most notably by German designer Luigi Colani.
The 18-wheeler of the future
The original reason for Colani’s futuristic truck design was to reduce the amount of gas needed to run a big rig. Gas prices have been in violent flux, and sometimes make it too expensive to justify driving a huge, gas-guzzling vehicle.
Colani’s design proposal changed the engine to reduce fuel consumption by 30%, and reconfigured the frame so it’s much smoother and more aerodynamic. Over the years, he continued to refine the idea, and came up with lighter materials and a new method of driving that incorporated a joystick rather than a steering wheel.
The current design uses 50% less fuel than semis currently on the road, but for the moment it’s unfortunately not cost-effective. A price tag of $1 million to produce a single vehicle is a little too pricey.
Perhaps one day, manufacturers will come up with ways to reduce this production cost. One thing that Colani never mentioned about was any safety improvement, to parallel what has been added to non-commercial vehicles in recent years.
Safety feature technology
A hot new trend in modern cars is a lengthy list of vehicle safety measures. Some of these features include:
- Forward collision avoidance
- Responsive automatic brakes
- Back-up cameras
- Parking assistance
- Back-up warning sensors
These are among the most popular features that regularly turn up as options in private vehicles. Perhaps some of these same measures will be added to semi trucks.
Semis are very heavy vehicles that take a longer time to slow down than cars do. If a semi driver has slow reactions, he or she only adds to the braking time necessary to avoid a terrible accident.
With autonomous brakes, a truck can begin to slow down at the first sign of danger, and potentially save lives.
Keeping semi drivers alert
Another major factor in accidents involving semi trucks is drowsy drivers. Big rigs typically move freight over long distances, and they can be on the road for incredibly long periods of time.
If a driver begins to “nod off” after a long stretch of driving, an accident is more likely to occur. Technology is starting to be implemented to keep drivers alert on the road. A few examples could be sensors that send out an audible alert if the driver’s hands leave the wheel for more than a few seconds, or if the vehicle begins to drift.
Technology of this variety has already been developed in certain areas, and it may not be long before it can be used to keep big-rig drivers and the people around them safer on the road.