Could A 'Transparent Truck' Make Highways Safer?

Korean technology giant Samsung has unveiled a new way to make roads around the world safer. The Samsung Safety Truck, shown in a video targeted at Argentinean audiences, combines two well-known Samsung technologies, cameras and television screens, to make one big idea: a transparent truck that could make passing on the highway much easier and much safer.

The Samsung Safety Truck consists of a semi-truck with a wireless camera on the front and four outdoor monitors on the back. The camera sends a video feed to the monitors, allowing drivers behind the truck to see if the road ahead is clear of oncoming traffic. That way, drivers know if they have enough time and space to pass the truck, before darting over to the other lane. The truck is ideal for two-lane highways and rural roads, like the ones that crisscross Argentina and some parts of the United States.

Samsung Argentina tweeted video of the new truck on Wednesday, calling it "an idea that could revolutionize road safety and contribute to saving lives." Samsung released the video just a week after Argentina's National Road Safety Day, which was on June 10. According to Samsung's video, one person dies every hour from traffic accidents in Argentina, often because of dangerous passing on two-lane roads.

On Thursday, Samsung laid out its plan for the Safety Truck in a blog post on Samsung Tomorrow. In the post, Samsung confirms the truck in the video is just a prototype, which is no longer operational. However, the company said it plans to run more tests to comply with regulations in Argentina and to secure government approval.

In addition to warning would-be passers of oncoming traffic, the rear-facing monitors could warn drivers of sudden braking, such as in the case of an animal or pedestrian crossing the road ahead of a truck. The system also has a night-vision mode, allowing drivers to see the display clearly in the dark.

It's an innovative use of technology, but how likely is the Safety Truck to catch on? The Verge reported that Russian design agency Art Lebedev designed a similar concept in 2009 called the Transparentius, although it's unclear why the idea didn't catch on then. One barrier to entry for the truck is the obvious cost involved with installing a wireless camera and four large monitors on a fleet of trucks — not to mention the costs to maintain such a system. Companies may not want to pay a high price for the system unless they receive some incentive to do so. Still, government approval could help move the process along.

Even if it's not a new idea, the Samsung Safety Truck seems like a good idea for the future of technology. At this point, we're used to looking at cameras in our cars for cues about our surroundings (thank you, back-up cameras and turn-signal cameras) — so why not look at a camera on that slow-moving truck you're trying to get around? In a country like Argentina, where traffic deaths are particularly common, the transparent truck could make all the difference.

Images: SamsungArgentina/Youtube (2)