We recently had the opportunity to work with the Xingchen Hongye Technology Development Company in China, a company keen to upgrade their workplace operations to improve safety standards, specifically regarding forklift trucks. They enlisted our help to upgrade their existing forklift fleet with the latest safety technologies using a blend of our VIA Mobile360 safety solutions. Let’s take a look at the system we developed and the advantages it brings to worker safety.
Forklifts in industrial warehouse environments can be a safety concern for not only 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 a 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 on this occasion 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 to the DMS, a proven way to authenticate individuals quickly, and without intrusion. Only once authenticated can the driver then begin their shift – a solution that ensures only adequately trained and authorized company personnel can operate a forklift.
Improving the View
As well as the DMS, we also wanted to help drivers to perform to the best of their ability when behind the wheel. We added FOV-190 Gen-Lock cameras to all four sides of the forklift, allowing us to provide a 360° surround view system (SVS) that vastly improves situational awareness. 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 driver can enjoy a comprehensive view of their environment and 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 our 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.
Alert to All Dangers
After installing an additional three cameras (now eight in total), we can now make the driver much more aware of situations when the forklift approaches objects to the front, rear and side of the vehicle. The cameras essentially act as sensors that detect potential collisions and send alerts direct to the cockpit display so that danger can be instantly averted. The system also includes Dynamic Moving Object Detection to detect and send alerts when an object or person moves into the vicinity.
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.
To learn more about the VIA Mobile360 Forklift Safety Kit, check out this short introductory video which showcases many of the features mentioned above: