Cognex has vision for truck safety

By Plant Engineering Staff May 23, 2006

Cognex Corp., supplier of machine vision sensors and systems, acquired AssistWare Technology, Inc., a privately-held developer of Lane Departure Warning (LDW) systems for the heavy truck market. AssistWare’s LDW system uses a small video camera and machine vision technology to watch the road ahead and alert drivers if they unintentionally leave their lane, or if their driving pattern becomes erratic.

Two of the top causes of accidents are unintended lane departures and wandering excessively within a lane, which is one symptom of driver fatigue. A recent U.S. Department of Transportation study indicated that AssistWare’s LDW technology significantly reduced both of these highway hazards.

AssistWare is also participating in federally-funded research on driver assistance technologies. AssistWare and its partners at The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Eaton Corp., Visteon Corp., Honda R&D Americas Inc., Battelle Memorial Institute and the Michigan DOT, were recently selected by the U.S. DOT to take part in a $25 million program to develop, deploy and test a new integrated vehicle warning system to help drivers avoid accidents.

“Our initial focus will be to serve the heavy truck market, which, with nearly 300,000 heavy trucks sold per year in the United States alone, represents significant market potential for Cognex,” said Dr. Robert J. Shillman, Chairman and CEO of Cognex. “Over time, as we expand the technology and lower the price, we anticipate that these systems will become standard in all types of vehicles, ranging from the heaviest long-haul trucks to the smallest commuter cars.”

Cognex completed the acquisition of AssistWare on May 22, 2006. It will retain AssistWare’s employees and current offices in Gibsonia, PA, which will serve as an Advanced Research and Development center for Cognex’s initiative in this new market area. AssistWare’s founder, Dr. Dean Pomerleau, a recognized expert with more than 15 years of experience in the field, will join Cognex to lead those R&D activities.

“Cognex will continue to develop, support and market AssistWare’s LDW technology for the heavy trucking industry in the near term with a focus on expanding its capabilities to include such features as collision warning, headlight dimming and adaptive cruise control,” Dr. Shillman said. “Over time, we plan to develop and offer inward-looking sensors for truck and passenger vehicles which will be able to do such things as recognize the driver and determine the size and position of each occupant for intelligent air-bag deployment.”