We recently had the opportunity to work with the Xingchen Hongye Technology Development Company in China, who enlisted our help to upgrade the safety of their existing forklift fleet using our VIA Mobile360 solutions.
Forklifts in industrial warehouse environments can be a safety hazard not only for the drivers, but also to other members of staff working on the same shop floor. In the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that as many as 20,000 workers are injured in forklift accidents each year. Of that number, approximately 100 are fatalities. These shocking figures are indicative of the situation globally, which is why companies like Xingchen Hongye are willing to invest in advanced in-vehicle safety technologies that can help drastically reduce the number of potential forklift-related accidents.
As with many in-vehicle safety systems, the first point of consideration is the driver, or in this case the forklift operator. Statistics show us that few accidents are a result of equipment or vehicle failure. Human error remains the primary source of most accidents. Our client is very much aware of this fact, which is why they tasked us with implementing the DMS (Driver Monitoring System).
A DMS ensures that the person behind the wheel is using all their faculties to operate the vehicle. A camera facing the inside of the cabin feeds a real-time video stream to a computer system that can recognize situations where the driver is distracted, sending both visual and sound alerts to the driver. Compromised situations include moments of drowsiness or yawning, or when the driver is distracted in other ways. We included object recognition algorithms that detect when the driver is smoking a cigarette or using a mobile phone, situations that unfortunately are still quite common in industrial workplaces. To protect drivers while they work, we also integrated alerts to remind the driver to buckle his seat belt.
One specific request from the client involved adding Driver Authentication to the DMS, a feature that ensures vehicles can only be operated by authorized employees. Authentication works by integrating facial recognition algorithms in the DMS. Only when the driver has been authenticated can the forklift be operated – ensuring that the vehicle isn’t used by unqualified employees.
Improving the View
As well as the DMS, we installed FOV-190 Gen-Lock cameras on all four sides of the forklift to provide a 360° SVS (Surround View System) that vastly improves situational awareness for the operator. The four cameras use VIA Multi-Stitch technology to seamlessly combine camera feeds on-the-fly, creating a real-time spherical view of the vehicle’s surroundings. The system leverages advanced 3D imaging algorithms that ensure a sharp, clear panoramic image is presented to a display in the cockpit. When reversing into a corridor, or making a hard turn in the warehouse, the operator can thus enjoy a comprehensive view of their environment and see any potential hazards in the immediate vicinity.
The final piece of our forklift solution involved adding Front, Rear, and Side Collision Warning ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) features to the in-vehicle system. So far we had managed to run both DMS and SVS from a single computer – would it be possible to add a third? Fortunately for us we had a very powerful and scalable computer system at our disposal, the recently launched VIA Mobile360 M820, a quad-core, ruggedized system designed to support up to nine cameras – more than sufficient connectivity and horsepower to support DMS, SVS, and ADAS.
Check out the short video below to learn more:
The key to reducing accidents and fatalities from forklifts is to give operators the best possible view of their working environment – a situation vastly improved with the addition of eight cameras to the vehicle itself. By working closely with this customer, we learned a great deal about the specific safety concerns prevalent in workplaces where forklifts are used and how to address them in the most effective manner.
To learn more about the VIA Mobile360 Forklift Safety Kit, check out this short introductory video which showcases many of the features mentioned above:
Note: This article is part of a series of pieces about smart transportation trends that we have recently published on the VIA website. The content has been amended in places.