“Demand for good visibility is always important”
Product development in the automotive industry is an area that demands attention to a number of factors. Take for example a truck: it is used and operates in many different traffic environments – from long-haul highway routes to congested urban streets, from timber haulage in remote forests to operations deep down in mines or quarries. Individual truck models are variously suited to the different operational needs, but there are also vehicles that perform well in multiple operating conditions. The demand for good visibility is always important, but depending on where you operate some demands are more important than others.
When haulage operations involve a lot of motorway driving in Europe, good forward visibility is vital and it is also important to enjoy a clear view via the rear-view mirrors and alongside the truck, making it safe to change lanes, for instance. If you drive a lot in city centres, where there is so much happening around the truck (cars, cycles, pedestrians and children, all while the driver has to pay close attention to road signs and navigate the correct route), it is immensely important that close-quarter visibility all around the truck is the best possible.
Since you sit so much higher up in a truck compared with other vehicles, there is an area in the immediate vicinity all around the truck that it is difficult to monitor with the naked eye. We cover this area with various mirrors, but this naturally requires that the driver uses these mirrors Unfortunately, however, there is not always time for this when so much is happening all around the truck.
In my role as Feature Leader in Visibility at Group Trucks Technology I know that the biggest demand from our customers right now is to improve direct visibility and to eliminate blind spots. One trend throughout the automotive industry, driven both by legislation and by technical development, is to equip vehicles with various safety systems designed to improve traffic safety. That is excellent! However, if a driver does not have good direct visibility, that is to say visibility through the windscreen and windows, he or she will still not feel sufficiently safe.
Visibility in the old Volvo FH is affected by the angled A-pillars and the bulky mirror housings, a combination that creates blind spots. It was against this background that my colleagues and I embarked on our work with the new Volvo FH. Since large parts of the truck body (BIW) were to be redesigned, this gave us excellent scope for making improvements in this crucial area.
One first step in this process was to straighten up the A-pillars and to make them as slim as possible without affecting the cab’s safety. The mirrors were positioned a bit further ahead and with a larger gap to the A-pillar, considerably improving direct visibility. Lowering the front edge of the side window also offered significant benefits.
For the sake of direct visibility, we want the mirror to be as small as possible, but we should not forget that its main task is to allow the driver to see what is happening alongside and behind the vehicle. This means that the mirror’s glass area has to be as large as possible.
The view in the old mirrors is very good, so that was not something we wanted to impair in the new Volvo FH. Because we chose a concept that was new to trucks in the premium segment, it was possible to combine excellent direct visibility with equally good indirect visibility. The new concept is based on the fact that the entire mirror, which is attached to an arm, is movable, as opposed to the previous version where only the mirror glass moved inside a fixed, large plastic housing. Through good cooperation between everyone concerned, the end-result was something that in terms of both form and function can be truly classed as premium.
Hanna Degerman, Product Development, Group Trucks Technology
Work on the rear-view mirrors of the new Volvo FH was rewarded with the Volvo Group’s internal safety award. This award was created by the Group’s safety committee and its aim is to underscore the core value of safety and to draw attention to work in the vital areas of product and traffic safety.