They whiz nimbly down narrow aisles of shelving, transporting heavy loads in production plants and warehouses – forklift trucks are an absolutely essential piece of equipment in modern-day logistics. Their use, however, also poses potential risks.
According to data from the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), more than 12,500 accidents resulting in personal injury and involving forklift trucks were reported in 2018 alone. In one-third of forklift accidents, the person injured was the driver; and in 42 percent of cases, the accident victim was hit, crushed, or run over by a forklift. “With our innovative collision warning system, we are now offering an essential upgrade for increasing forklift operation safety and reducing workplace accidents in this area,” says Andrew Allen, responsible for the Commercial Vehicles and Off-Road operating unit at Bosch.
Collision warning system
The collision warning system comprises four compact near-range cameras and a control unit that creates an all-around view of the vehicle’s surroundings and displays this to the forklift driver on a monitor. Bosch presented the first generation of the multi-camera system for forklifts, which was designed purely as a view assist solution, at the LogiMAT trade show in 2019.
This system already provided a good all-around view, even in the case of blind spots, i.e. restricted visibility, for example, due to the load on the fork or during vehicle reversing manoeuvres. The function enhancement now warns the forklift driver about any stationary or moving objects in the vehicle’s immediate surroundings. The alert can, for instance, take the form of a clearly discernible coloured area overlaid onto the picture of the vehicle surroundings displayed on the monitor.
In order to enhance the capabilities of the system and develop the view assist function into an effective collision warning system, Bosch analysed the data from in-depth market research and consulted recognised experts in this field, like those at the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the Trade and Logistics Industry (BGHW).
Based on the information gleaned, Bosch says it identified three typical driving scenarios in which the risk of an accident occurring is particularly high and from this subsequently derived the respective use cases for the warning function. These insights, alongside other aspects, are flowing into the current development process with the ultimate goal of being able to offer an optimally tailored function in future that meets the assistance requirements of the market. These include driving off and general maneuvering in aisles and on paths, crossing intersections in warehouses, and manoeuvering loads into and out of storage. “Our aim is to ensure the developed solution only ever provides the driver with relevant alerts that are not distracting or confusing,” says Andrew Allen.
Perfect view combined with timely alerts
When driving in an aisle or past rows of shelves, the driver is warned about anyone kneeling, standing, or moving behind or alongside the vehicle. At intersections with restricted visibility, the system also helps the driver react in good time to persons or vehicles approaching from the side. A further benefit is the warning feature that assists the driver when handling storage items. It enables the driver to better focus on, for example, the task of retrieving a load from storage, since the system will provide a timely warning if there is a risk of collision.
In addition to the collision warning feature, the functionality provided by the multi-camera system also includes all the features offered by the first-generation view assist solution. For example, an image of the driver’s own vehicle is shown on the cockpit display as a 3D model that is accurate in every detail. If the vehicle moves, the on-screen image of the vehicle’s surroundings changes accordingly. What is more, the vehicle’s predicted trajectory can be overlaid onto the monitor picture as an aid during maneuvering and positioning. The driver can furthermore zoom into the 'top view' display to make it easier to precisely manoeuvre the vehicle in tight spaces. The various screen views (e.g. the individual views of the various cameras, 360deg all-around view, full screen, split screen) can be configured by the driver, but they can also be preset by the vehicle manufacturer based on the vehicle’s intended use.
Quick and easy multi-camera system setup
The new collision warning solution is based on the same hardware as the multi-camera system, so the calibration process is quick and easy. In the case of mobile machinery used in off-highway applications, Bosch makes the process of adapting the multi-camera system to different customer use cases very straightforward. It means service technicians can get the system of cameras operational in under 25 minutes, even on different vehicle variants.
All that is needed to perform the calibration are five handy calibration patterns (that can be rolled up for easy storage), a measuring tape, and a service PC for running the calibration tool. The service technician can perform the calibration quickly and easily using the quick setup function or a guided, dialog-based setup. The calibration tool therefore adapts perfectly to the technician’s personal preferences and level of experience. It also offers features like diagnostic functions for troubleshooting, software updates, and additional custom settings.
Bosch says it has already started development of the collision warning function and will be presenting the initial results of this work at LogiMAT 2020. The market launch is planned for 2021.