Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


Charles Birdsong


This report is a summary of the development of sensor integration for low-cost crash avoidance for over-land commercial trucks. The goal of the project was to build and test a system composed of low-cost commercially available sensors arranged on a truck trailer to monitor the environment around the truck. The system combines the data from each sensor to increase the reliability of the sensor using a probabilistic data fusion approach. A combination of ultrasonic and magnetoresistive sensors was used in this study. In addition, Radar and digital imaging were investigated as reference signals and possible candidates for additional sensor integration. However, the primary focus of this work is the integration of the ultrasonic and magnetoresistive sensors.

During the investigation the individual sensors were evaluated for their use in the system. This included communication with vendors and lab and field testing. In addition, the sensors were modeled using an analytical mathematical model to help understand and predict the sensor behavior. Next, an algorithm was developed to fuse the data from the individual sensors. A probabilistic approach was used based on Bayesian filtering with a prediction-correction algorithm. Sensor fusion was implemented using joint a probability algorithm. The output of the system is a prediction of the likelihood of the presence of a vehicle in a given region near the host truck trailer. The algorithm was demonstrated on the fusion of an ultrasonic sensor and a magnetic sensor. Testing was conducted using both a light pickup truck and also with a class 8 truck. Various scenarios were evaluated to determine the system performance. These included vehicles passing the host truck from behind and the host truck passing vehicles. Also scenarios were included to test the system at distinguishing other vehicles from objects that are not vehicles such as sign posts, walls or railroads that could produce electronic signals similar to those of vehicles and confuse the system. The test results indicate that the system was successful at predicting the presence and absence of vehicles and also successful at eliminating false positives from objects that are not vehicles with overall accuracy ranging from 90 to 100% depending on the scenario. Some additional improvements in the performance are expected with future improvements in the algorithm discussed in the report.

The report includes a discussion of the mapping of the algorithm output with the implementation of current and future safety and crash avoidance technologies based on the level of confidence of the algorithm output and the seriousness of the impending crash scenario. For example, irreversible countermeasures such as firing an airbag or engaging the brakes should only be initiated if the confidence of the signal is very high, while reversible countermeasures such as warnings to the driver or nearby vehicles can be initiated with a relatively lower confidence.

The results indicate that the system shows good potential as a low cost alternative to competing systems which require multiple, high cost sensors. Truck fleet operators will likely adopt technology only if the costs are justified by reduced damage and insurance costs, therefore developing an effective crash avoidance system at a low cost is required for the technology to be adopted on a large scale.