With this traffic monitoring technology, motorhomers can drive with a copilot that’s always alert.
By Jim Brightly, F358406
We’ve all heard the story about the new motorhome owner who set the cruise control and then went back to the galley to make a sandwich, believing that the cruise control would manage the coach’s direction as well as the speed.
Of course, this is one of the many urban legends being passed around today and would never happen. But with vehicle navigation technology becoming more and more advanced, it’s not hard to imagine a day when drivers are able to set their course, sit back, and watch the scenery as the motorhome’s electronic wizardry guides the coach down the highway. Although that kind of “cruise control” freedom may be years away, the basics of such a guidance system have been established with the VORAD collision avoidance system from Eaton Corporation, C10396.
Using sophisticated, high-frequency radar, VORAD’s multiple systems “” AlwaysAlert, BlindSpotter, and SmartCruise “” alert drivers to potentially hazardous traffic conditions, giving the operator time to respond before an accident occurs. AlwaysAlert and BlindSpotter can be installed on new or used coaches with either diesel or gasoline engines, while SmartCruise can be installed only on certain compatible diesel engines.
AlwaysAlert is a forward-looking tool that scans the roadway ahead of the vehicle. The system helps drivers avoid accidents through audible and visual alerts “” the closer the obstacle, the more intense the warnings. According to product literature, it continuously monitors road conditions up to 500 feet ahead and can even “see” around curves. It can track up to 20 vehicles at one time, even those driving in adjacent lanes, but it reports only those vehicles within your motorhome’s lane, even if the lane curves.
By taking into account the motorhome’s speed and the distance of the vehicle(s) ahead, the in-coach warning panel will illuminate a single yellow light when an object is within 3 seconds of being contacted. At 2 seconds, two lights (yellow and orange) will show. At 1 second from possible impact, three lights “” yellow, orange, and red “” will be visible, but still with no sound warning. The fourth stage of warning occurs when the object is within ½-second of impact. At this stage all three lights will illuminate and a triple repeating tone will sound. These are the factory settings, but both the volume and range are adjustable by the operator via control knobs on the warning panel.
In addition to the above, the system also calculates the closing rate of the coach to vehicles ahead of it. If the system determines that the driver needs to react to a dangerous situation immediately, AlwaysAlert will activate both the audible and visual alerts at distances out to 450 feet ahead, giving the driver plenty of time to react.
The BlindSpotter uses short-range radar sensors mounted on the sides of the motorhome to “see” what the driver can’t alongside the coach. This addition to AlwaysAlert “watches” for vehicles or other obstacles on the sides of the motorhome and warns the driver if something is detected in the blind spots. When the system senses another vehicle alongside the motorhome, a constant visual alert is displayed until the vehicle is no longer in range. If the motorhome driver puts on the turn signal to indicate a lane change and the sensor detects another vehicle in that lane, an audible alarm is activated to alert the driver to the potential hazard.
The third piece of the VORAD system is SmartCruise. Working in conjunction with the AlwaysAlert component and the vehicle’s own cruise control system, SmartCruise automatically maintains a safe following distance by monitoring and matching the flow of traffic. As the vehicle in front of the motorhome speeds up or slows down, SmartCruise will maintain the same safe distance by adjusting the speed of the coach. SmartCruise, which was introduced in 1999, can even engage the engine retarder when engine braking is required to maintain a safe following distance. When traffic opens up again, the system automatically returns to the preset cruise control speed.
The VORAD system was introduced to the commercial trucking industry in 1995. Freightliner became the first tractor manufacturer to offer the system as an option just before the turn of the century. In 2003 Monaco Coach Corporation became the first motorhome manufacturer to offer VORAD as a factory-installed option. Initially it was available on two high-end models, but now it can be ordered on 10 Monaco models. Today VORAD is also an option on motorhomes manufactured by Country Coach, Fleetwood, Newell, Newmar, and Parliament Coach.
Since it uses a different frequency than that used by law enforcement radar guns, VORAD will not interfere with radar detectors or affect the traffic-speed radar used by police officers. Even though the system can be added to preowned coaches, it cannot be installed by the average shade-tree mechanic or coach owner. Components of the VORAD system must be installed by factory-trained, authorized technicians to ensure proper operation. (Computer software and special tools are required to align the radar and to interface it with the vehicle’s electronics.)
Installation of the system will take approximately eight hours, and prices will vary depending upon the coach model and labor rates. However, expect to pay between $5,500 and $6,500 for the full-service system (AlwaysAlert, BlindSpotter, and SmartCruise), which is also the typical price to add VORAD as an option on a new coach.
Safety is paramount when operating a vehicle, and even the best drivers make mistakes or become distracted. The VORAD collision avoidance system puts another set of “eyes” on the road, alerting drivers to hazardous situations and allowing them to take action before it’s too late.
Eaton Corporation, P.O. Box 4013, Kalamazoo, MI 49003; (866) 788-6723; www.vorad.com