Could 'see-through' trucks make highways safer?

Samsung's 'Safety Trucks' have cameras that show the driver of a car behind the truck what's going on in the lane ahead, to reduce the risk of passing and stopping short.

Passing a semi-trailer truck on a two-lane highway can be risky. It's often difficult to see if someone is coming in the opposite direction, or what the traffic looks like ahead of the truck. But when inching along behind a truck that's blowing exhaust and obscuring your vision doesn’t feel like an option, the risk of passing might not seem so bad.

Samsung wants to change that. The Korea-based company has developed “Safety Trucks,” whose trailer tailgates come paneled with monitors that display video from wireless cameras located at the front of the truck, essentially rendering the vehicle transparent both in daylight and at night.

“This allows drivers to have a better view when deciding whether it is safe to overtake,” a SamsungTomorrow blog post says. “Another advantage of the Safety Truck is that it may reduce the risk of accidents caused by sudden braking or animals crossing the road.”

The technology will initially be tested in Argentina, where the SamsungTomorrow blog reports traffic accident rates are among the highest worldwide, and crashes involving overtaking on two-lane roads are common. The Argentine newspaper El País reported that the country sees one death per hour due to traffic accidents.

A prototype truck is “no longer operational,” but the results of initial tests look promising: Samsung says it will collaborate with Argentina’s government and safe-driving NGOs “to perform the corresponding tests in order to comply with the existing national protocols and obtain the necessary permits and approvals.”

Motor vehicles of all types are getting smarter in a variety of ways. With the advent of self-driving cars and trucks on the horizon, for example, would there be a place for “see-through” trucks?

Bridget Carey, of consumer technology news and review company CNET, told CBS she doesn't think so.

"Although it [the safety truck] has some good intentions, I can't help but feel it itself is a distraction to driving," Ms. Carey said, adding, "We're heading more toward self driving cars … I feel like this is more for show."

Another potential problem with smarter cars: data suggests that while more than 90 percent of motor vehicle accidents in the United States are caused by human error, people may be unlikely to put their trust in new technology when it comes to such a high-stakes game.

Carey said that people "feel like we're smarter than a camera, smarter than a computer. We're still going to go around it."

Venture capitalist and early Uber investor Bill Gurley agrees. He told the Washington Post, “Humans will be much less tolerant of a machine error causing death than human error causing death.”

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