Vehicle Operator Safety - The Advantages of Using Electronic Sensors in Off-road Vehicles

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Off-road vehicles are designed to perform arduous tasks in extreme outdoor conditions. In industries such as construction, agriculture and forestry, vehicles must navigate on uneven surfaces while lifting and moving heavy loads. For vehicle operators, the chances of tipping or rolling over are high, and safety is a concern. By installing preventative measures such as electronic sensors to detect the vehicle’s operating condition and alignment, operator safety is increased. This   paper will describe the advantages of using three distinct sensor types in off-road vehicles to improve operator safety.

To prevent vehicle operator injury, electronic sensors can be used in off-road vehicles to warn the operator if the vehicle or its load is in danger. These sensor families include tilt sensors, inductive position sensors and pressure sensors. The technologies behind each sensor family will be examined as well as application examples presented.Environmental exposure is also a safety factor. As virtual "plants-on-wheels," off-road vehicles are exposed to extreme shock and vibration, harsh chemicals, dirt and electrical interference. The sensors used on these vehicles must be able to withstand these same extreme conditions to prevent mechanical damage and downtime.

Tilt Sensors Monitor the Safe Horizontal Alignment of Vehicles

Rugged terrain and moving machine parts can quickly shift the balance of a vehicle. A dangerous alignment can cause hazardous conditions for a vehicle operator. To assist operators in monitoring the horizontal alignment of vehicles, tilt sensors precisely detect slight angle variations. Tilt sensors can report, for example, the exact road-grade angle, boom angle, platform angle and crane-level angle. Upon receiving these signals, an operator can take action to avoid an unsafe situation. 

Tilt sensors must be able to withstand the extreme shock, vibration, and harsh elements associated with outdoor use. Direct exposure to chemicals, dirt, moisture, sunlight, and electrical interference is common. Design features that enable tilt sensors to resist the elements and perform in extreme environments include:

  • Compact housings – rated for IP67 protection – encase and protect the electronics from chemicals and liquid ingress, 
  • UV-resistant plastic and metal housings prevent damage from exposure to sunlight, 
  • Noise-immune technology enables the sensors to ignore conducted and radiated electrical noise. 
  • Outputs protected from short-circuits and overloads eliminate damage during installation, 
  • Highly flexible cables, jacketed to resist chemicals and perform at temperatures as low as –40 °F. 

Two very different, yet highly effective sensing technologies can be applied to verify horizontal alignment.

Conclusion

Applying tilt, position and pressures on off-road vehicles will help to ensure a vehicle operator’s safety. Tilt and alignment sensors prove to be instrumental in preventing rollover and maintaining vehicle balance. Position sensors provide reliable position feedback of moving components including cranes and platforms. The  pressure sensors can continuously monitor a vehicle’s hydraulic system and provide an output on the vehicle’s operating condition. Working together on a vehicle, these sensors will ensure a safer vehicle and thereby protect its operator.

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