Obstacle avoidance products for commercial vehicles keep getting better all the time. There are a multitude of choices on the market to suit a variety of fleet needs, from backup alarms and cameras, to radar- and sonar-based object detection systems based on the latest technology available to the industry.

Eaton Corp., for example, recently introduced its next-generation VORAD safety system that provides the truck industry with several options to meet individual safety demands. Fleets can select any one or all of the safety-related VORAD offerings, including a standard collision warning system with forward-looking radar, the BlindSpotter side sensor, and SmartCruise adaptive cruise control.

The VORAD VS-400 safety system-which went into full production in June this year--features a new 77-GHz radar that Eaton says is approved for worldwide use. It's 70% lighter and 60% smaller than the existing EVT-300 radar, the company reports, and replaces both the EVT-300 radar and CPU, reducing the amount of wires from 18 to four, resulting in easier installation. The VORAD VS-400 also features a new driver interface unit that is more intuitive and user-friendly, according to Eaton.

Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC has a new product, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), which is scheduled for launch early in 2008. The objective is to enable brake intervention in ACC mode to help rapidly slow a vehicle and maintain safe following distances. The ACC system uses throttle reduction, engine retarder and brake applications to help decelerate the vehicle. The technology, Bendix reports, builds on the company's original active safety system, the Bendix ESP stability system.

According to the company, Bendix ESP stability system allows drivers to take a variety of approaches to avoid a collision, depending on the circumstance. For example, ESP can help drivers maintain control of their vehicles while swerving to avoid an accident.

Preco Electronics takes another approach to accident avoidance. This year the manufacturer introduced its next-generation side and rear blind spot detection system, called High Resolution PreView. The enhanced system, the company reports, is built on proven pulse radar technology and includes improved close-in resolution and detection zone shape, and better overall performance.

Preco's High Resolution PreView is J1939 CANBUS enabled for integration with the vehicle or other equipment. It can be programmed for 20- 15- and 10-ft. coverage, and provides close-up detection within the first three feet.

Safety Vision and FLIR Systems offer fleets an affordable thermal-imaging camera that makes driving at night or in other difficult conditions safer. According to Safety Vision, PathFindIR, which is capable of producing images in complete darkness and through dust and smoke, helps drivers see five times farther than with standard headlights so they have more time to react to road hazards.

PathFindIR also improves visibility in fog, rain and snow, Safety Vision reports. The camera is about the size of a tennis ball, so it fits into small spaces. It has a sealed housing that resists damage, and a rugged design that allows it to withstand extreme temperatures and harsh environments, while maintaining a reliable, high performance level.

ASA Electronics has introduced two new products for the heavy-duty trucking industry this year. First is the Voyager AOM7694HD, a 7-in. heavy-duty color LCD observation monitor. Unlike sensor or radar systems, the ASA camera/monitor observation system provides truck drivers with real-time images of a vehicle's surroundings so they can detect dangerous obstacles in the truck's path. The AOM7694HD, with multi-screen capability, can accommodate up to four observation cameras.

The second new product from ASA is the Voyager Super CMOS side vision observation camera, which is typically mounted on either side of a truck's front fender. When paired with a Voyager observation monitor, these 12-volt cameras are highly effective in eliminating blind spots on the left and right sides of a vehicle, according to ASA. Each CMOS camera has a 102-deg. horizontal viewing angle that allows drivers to see up to three or four lanes over.

Transportation Safety Technologies (TST) offers a system that's designed to help drivers avoid accidents while backing up or changing lanes. The EagleEye Obstacle Detection System uses ultrasonic sensors, the company explains, to detect objects within ten feet of the sides or rear of a commercial vehicle. Up to seven weather-resistant sensors, heated to prevent ice and snow buildup, can be strategically mounted around a vehicle. A dash-mounted digital display provides an audible warning and a measurement of the distance of the hidden object to the truck.

Rostra Precision Controls, the manufacturer of the RearSight camera system that uses microwave technology to detect objects, now offers a RearSight system for use with the Dodge Sprinter Van. The system can be installed in 30 minutes and provides drivers with a 150-deg. wide-angle view from the rear of the van to help them avoid objects in the blind spots.

RearSight features a waterproof CCD color image camera that's installed on top of the van above the rear door. A 3.5-in. TFT-LCD monitor is mounted to the headliner inside the cabin with a special mounting stem and bracket.

For tractor-trailers, PowerLinx offers a camera system called Zone Defense. The rear observation system, the company reports, eliminates the need for transmission cables by utilizing the vehicle's existing wiring harness to transmit video from the trailer to the truck cab.

Sonar Safety Systems Inc. (SSSI), which offers fleets the Hindsight 20/20 audio- and visual-detection system, says the benefits of investing in a combination unit like this are clear when fleets consider the economical sense of avoiding property damages, insurance costs, injuries, loss of productivity and even possible death resulting from a crash. The SSI system includes a 7-in. monitor, three-channel camera input, two-channel sonar input (for rear detection), six-step detection distance indication, a mirror and built-in speaker and microphone.