The number of fatal traffic accidents involving vulnerable road users in Flanders grew by 10% in 2023 from the previous year. The total of 136 victims is a record, and includes a growing number of accidents related to lorriesโ€™ blind spots. Safer vehicles are crucial if this alarming tide is to be turned. To tackle the challenge, eXia, a spin-off of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), and imec have developed the Active Sideguard blind spot sensor for lorries, the worldโ€™s first warning system to use low-frequency electric fields.

The Active Sideguard sensors are the result of more than 15 years of research at the VUB.

โ€œThe ground-breaking technology behind the sensors uses extremely weak low frequency electric fields to detect vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, scooter riders and pedestrians, in the blind spot of lorries,โ€ says Bart Truyen, VUB researcher and managing director of eXia. โ€œUnlike existing radar sensors, Active Sideguard sensors are distinguished by an advanced spatial detection process that extends to road level for unmatched detection of all vulnerable road users."

โ€œFurthermore, we noticed during our research that the performance of most available blind spot sensors was heavily influenced by external factors. In adverse conditions, such as rain and snow, vulnerable road users were less reliably detected, while the lorry driver was bothered by false alarms. These sensors are also less suitable for rougher transport situations. Active Sideguard sensors, on the other hand, are weather resistant and robust, and continue to function reliably on all freight vehicles in all situations, and so help to guarantee the safety of vulnerable road users. We are literally saving lives with our research.โ€

The research was co-financed by the Flemish government, which contributed โ‚ฌ420,000.

โ€œThis new generation of blind spot sensors closely aligns with the updated European Vehicle General Safety Regulation, which recognises and addresses the issue of blind spots,โ€ says Flemish minister for Mobility and Public Works Lydia Peeters. โ€œFreight and other professional traffic is heavily involved in fatal road accidents. As well as major efforts in terms of safe road infrastructure and awareness campaigns, there must be a focus on safer vehicles and continuous education to make drivers aware of these vehicles and their new technology. Itโ€™s important that there is investment in research into the protection of all road users, particularly the most vulnerable. Initiatives such as Active Sideguard are also crucial and illustrate the power of cooperation between academic institutions, industry and the government.โ€

More information about Active Sideguard can be found on the eXia website.