WO2009001039A1 - A sensor unit and a vehicle load and parking warning system incorporating such sensor units - Google Patents

A sensor unit and a vehicle load and parking warning system incorporating such sensor units Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2009001039A1
WO2009001039A1 PCT/GB2008/002091 GB2008002091W WO2009001039A1 WO 2009001039 A1 WO2009001039 A1 WO 2009001039A1 GB 2008002091 W GB2008002091 W GB 2008002091W WO 2009001039 A1 WO2009001039 A1 WO 2009001039A1
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
vehicle
sensor units
mounted
distance
vicinity
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/GB2008/002091
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Ian Charles Williamson
Original Assignee
Timlin, James
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to GB0712204.7 priority Critical
Priority to GB0712204A priority patent/GB2450377A/en
Application filed by Timlin, James filed Critical Timlin, James
Publication of WO2009001039A1 publication Critical patent/WO2009001039A1/en

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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01SRADIO DIRECTION-FINDING; RADIO NAVIGATION; DETERMINING DISTANCE OR VELOCITY BY USE OF RADIO WAVES; LOCATING OR PRESENCE-DETECTING BY USE OF THE REFLECTION OR RERADIATION OF RADIO WAVES; ANALOGOUS ARRANGEMENTS USING OTHER WAVES
    • G01S15/00Systems using the reflection or reradiation of acoustic waves, e.g. sonar systems
    • G01S15/88Sonar systems specially adapted for specific applications
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60GVEHICLE SUSPENSION ARRANGEMENTS
    • B60G17/00Resilient suspensions having means for adjusting the spring or vibration-damper characteristics, for regulating the distance between a supporting surface and a sprung part of vehicle or for locking suspension during use to meet varying vehicular or surface conditions, e.g. due to speed or load
    • B60G17/015Resilient suspensions having means for adjusting the spring or vibration-damper characteristics, for regulating the distance between a supporting surface and a sprung part of vehicle or for locking suspension during use to meet varying vehicular or surface conditions, e.g. due to speed or load the regulating means comprising electric or electronic elements
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60GVEHICLE SUSPENSION ARRANGEMENTS
    • B60G17/00Resilient suspensions having means for adjusting the spring or vibration-damper characteristics, for regulating the distance between a supporting surface and a sprung part of vehicle or for locking suspension during use to meet varying vehicular or surface conditions, e.g. due to speed or load
    • B60G17/015Resilient suspensions having means for adjusting the spring or vibration-damper characteristics, for regulating the distance between a supporting surface and a sprung part of vehicle or for locking suspension during use to meet varying vehicular or surface conditions, e.g. due to speed or load the regulating means comprising electric or electronic elements
    • B60G17/0195Resilient suspensions having means for adjusting the spring or vibration-damper characteristics, for regulating the distance between a supporting surface and a sprung part of vehicle or for locking suspension during use to meet varying vehicular or surface conditions, e.g. due to speed or load the regulating means comprising electric or electronic elements characterised by the regulation being combined with other vehicle control systems
    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01GWEIGHING
    • G01G19/00Weighing apparatus or methods adapted for special purposes not provided for in the preceding groups
    • G01G19/08Weighing apparatus or methods adapted for special purposes not provided for in the preceding groups for incorporation in vehicles
    • G01G19/12Weighing apparatus or methods adapted for special purposes not provided for in the preceding groups for incorporation in vehicles having electrical weight-sensitive devices
    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01GWEIGHING
    • G01G23/00Auxiliary devices for weighing apparatus
    • G01G23/18Indicating devices, e.g. for remote indication; Recording devices; Scales, e.g. graduated
    • G01G23/36Indicating the weight by electrical means, e.g. using photoelectric cells
    • G01G23/37Indicating the weight by electrical means, e.g. using photoelectric cells involving digital counting
    • G01G23/3728Indicating the weight by electrical means, e.g. using photoelectric cells involving digital counting with wireless means
    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01GWEIGHING
    • G01G9/00Methods or apparatus for the determination of weight not otherwise provided for
    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01SRADIO DIRECTION-FINDING; RADIO NAVIGATION; DETERMINING DISTANCE OR VELOCITY BY USE OF RADIO WAVES; LOCATING OR PRESENCE-DETECTING BY USE OF THE REFLECTION OR RERADIATION OF RADIO WAVES; ANALOGOUS ARRANGEMENTS USING OTHER WAVES
    • G01S15/00Systems using the reflection or reradiation of acoustic waves, e.g. sonar systems
    • G01S15/87Combinations of sonar systems
    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01SRADIO DIRECTION-FINDING; RADIO NAVIGATION; DETERMINING DISTANCE OR VELOCITY BY USE OF RADIO WAVES; LOCATING OR PRESENCE-DETECTING BY USE OF THE REFLECTION OR RERADIATION OF RADIO WAVES; ANALOGOUS ARRANGEMENTS USING OTHER WAVES
    • G01S15/00Systems using the reflection or reradiation of acoustic waves, e.g. sonar systems
    • G01S15/88Sonar systems specially adapted for specific applications
    • G01S15/93Sonar systems specially adapted for specific applications for anti-collision purposes
    • G01S15/931Sonar systems specially adapted for specific applications for anti-collision purposes between land vehicles; between land vehicles and fixed obstacles
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60GVEHICLE SUSPENSION ARRANGEMENTS
    • B60G2400/00Indexing codes relating to detected, measured or calculated conditions or factors
    • B60G2400/25Stroke; Height; Displacement
    • B60G2400/252Stroke; Height; Displacement vertical
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60GVEHICLE SUSPENSION ARRANGEMENTS
    • B60G2400/00Indexing codes relating to detected, measured or calculated conditions or factors
    • B60G2400/80Exterior conditions
    • B60G2400/82Ground surface
    • B60G2400/823Obstacle sensing
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60GVEHICLE SUSPENSION ARRANGEMENTS
    • B60G2800/00Indexing codes relating to the type of movement or to the condition of the vehicle and to the end result to be achieved by the control action
    • B60G2800/90System Controller type
    • B60G2800/91Suspension Control
    • B60G2800/912Attitude Control; levelling control
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60GVEHICLE SUSPENSION ARRANGEMENTS
    • B60G2800/00Indexing codes relating to the type of movement or to the condition of the vehicle and to the end result to be achieved by the control action
    • B60G2800/90System Controller type
    • B60G2800/91Suspension Control
    • B60G2800/915Suspension load distribution
    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01SRADIO DIRECTION-FINDING; RADIO NAVIGATION; DETERMINING DISTANCE OR VELOCITY BY USE OF RADIO WAVES; LOCATING OR PRESENCE-DETECTING BY USE OF THE REFLECTION OR RERADIATION OF RADIO WAVES; ANALOGOUS ARRANGEMENTS USING OTHER WAVES
    • G01S15/00Systems using the reflection or reradiation of acoustic waves, e.g. sonar systems
    • G01S15/87Combinations of sonar systems
    • G01S15/872Combination of several systems for attitude determination
    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01SRADIO DIRECTION-FINDING; RADIO NAVIGATION; DETERMINING DISTANCE OR VELOCITY BY USE OF RADIO WAVES; LOCATING OR PRESENCE-DETECTING BY USE OF THE REFLECTION OR RERADIATION OF RADIO WAVES; ANALOGOUS ARRANGEMENTS USING OTHER WAVES
    • G01S13/00Systems using the reflection or reradiation of radio waves, e.g. radar systems; Analogous systems using reflection or reradiation of waves whose nature or wavelength is irrelevant or unspecified
    • G01S13/88Radar or analogous systems specially adapted for specific applications
    • G01S13/93Radar or analogous systems specially adapted for specific applications for anti-collision purposes
    • G01S13/931Radar or analogous systems specially adapted for specific applications for anti-collision purposes between land vehicles; between land vehicles and fixed obstacles
    • G01S2013/9314Radar or analogous systems specially adapted for specific applications for anti-collision purposes between land vehicles; between land vehicles and fixed obstacles for parking operations
    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01SRADIO DIRECTION-FINDING; RADIO NAVIGATION; DETERMINING DISTANCE OR VELOCITY BY USE OF RADIO WAVES; LOCATING OR PRESENCE-DETECTING BY USE OF THE REFLECTION OR RERADIATION OF RADIO WAVES; ANALOGOUS ARRANGEMENTS USING OTHER WAVES
    • G01S15/00Systems using the reflection or reradiation of acoustic waves, e.g. sonar systems
    • G01S15/88Sonar systems specially adapted for specific applications
    • G01S15/93Sonar systems specially adapted for specific applications for anti-collision purposes
    • G01S15/931Sonar systems specially adapted for specific applications for anti-collision purposes between land vehicles; between land vehicles and fixed obstacles
    • G01S2015/937Sonar systems specially adapted for specific applications for anti-collision purposes between land vehicles; between land vehicles and fixed obstacles sensor installation details
    • G01S2015/938Sonar systems specially adapted for specific applications for anti-collision purposes between land vehicles; between land vehicles and fixed obstacles sensor installation details in the bumper area
    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01SRADIO DIRECTION-FINDING; RADIO NAVIGATION; DETERMINING DISTANCE OR VELOCITY BY USE OF RADIO WAVES; LOCATING OR PRESENCE-DETECTING BY USE OF THE REFLECTION OR RERADIATION OF RADIO WAVES; ANALOGOUS ARRANGEMENTS USING OTHER WAVES
    • G01S7/00Details of systems according to groups G01S13/00, G01S15/00, G01S17/00
    • G01S7/52Details of systems according to groups G01S13/00, G01S15/00, G01S17/00 of systems according to group G01S15/00
    • G01S7/521Constructional features

Abstract

A plurality of sensor units (1, 5, 9, 13) are provided, at least one for mounting on or in the 5 vicinity of the front axle of a vehicle and at least one for mounting on or in the vicinity of the rear axle of the vehicle. Each sensor unit comprises a first ultrasonic transducer mounted so as to emit a signal in a first direction (2, 6, 10, 14) in order to measure a first distance and a second ultrasonic transducer mounted so as to emit a signal in a second direction (3, 75 11, 15) in order to measure a second distance. The sensor units are operable under control of a central processing unit (19), a control panel and display screen, connected to or integral with the CPU, all for mounting in or on the vehicle so that the first transducers provide data on the distance between the vehicle and adjacent objects as a parking aid, while the second transducers provide data on the distance between part of the vehicle and the ground as a measure of the loading of the vehicle. Preferably four sensor units are provided, two (9, 13) for mounting to the vehicle substantially symmetrically in the vicinity of the front axle, and two (1, 5) for mounting to the vehicle substantially symmetrically in the vicinity of the rear axle.

Description

A Sensor Unit and a Vehicle Load and Parking Warning System Incorporating Such

Sensor Units

The present invention concerns an integrated load measuring and parking indicator system for a vehicle as well as a sensor unit specifically adapted to serve as part of such a system.

The present invention makes use of ultrasonic transducers to measure distance.

A vehicle weighing system is disclosed in US 4,623,029 which comprises ultrasonic transducers and associated reflectors enclosed in respective cylindrical housings. A pair of these is mounted between each axle and the vehicle frame so as to measure the vertical displacement of the frame relative to the axle. Upon transmission of the measurement signals to a central processing unit and appropriate calibration, the loading of each axle and the vehicle as a whole can be ascertained.

Ultrasonic sensors for measuring distance are known for mounting onto vehicles as components of parking and reversing aids, for example as described in US 6,318,774 and in US 6,784,808. Such parking and reversing systems are known to include data displays and/or one or more acoustic or opto-acoustic warning devices for the driver.

An object of the present invention is to provide a vehicle weighing system, or rather an overload warning system, which is less expensive than currently known, commercially available systems which incorporate load cells (strain gauges), and which can be retrofitted to vehicles, such as two axle vans, light and large goods vehicles, without requiring highly skilled fitters, which can be readily and accurately calibrated, again without requiring skilled labour, or may use a preset calibration and which is easy to use.

The present invention provides a combined vehicle load and parking warning system comprising a plurality of sensor units, at least one for mounting on or in the vicinity of the front axle of the vehicle and at least one for mounting on or in the vicinity of the rear axle of the vehicle, a central processing unit (CPU) for mounting in or on the vehicle for controlling the sensor units and receiving data from them, and a control panel and display screen, connected to or integral with the CPU and also for mounting in or on the vehicle, each sensor unit comprising a first ultrasonic transducer mounted so as to emit a signal in a first direction in order to measure a first distance and a second ultrasonic transducer mounted so as to emit a signal in a second direction in order to measure a second distance, the sensor units being operable under control of the CPU so that the first transducers provide data on the distance between the vehicle and adjacent objects as a parking aid, while the second transducers provide data on the distance between part of the vehicle and the ground as a measure of the loading of the vehicle.

For the avoidance of doubt, on or in the vicinity of the front axle of the vehicle includes any suitable location at the front portion of the vehicle including the bodywork, chassis and particularly the front bumper. Similarly, on or in the vicinity of the rear axle of the vehicle includes any suitable location at the rear portion of the vehicle including the bodywork, chassis and particularly the rear bumper.

Preferably, and for the sake of accuracy of the relevant sensing operations, at least four sensor units are provided, two for mounting to the vehicle substantially symmetrically in the vicinity of the front axle, and two for mounting to the vehicle substantially symmetrically in the vicinity of the rear axle.

In some embodiments more than two sensor units could be mounted in the vicinity of each axle. For example, four sensor units could be mounted on each of the front and rear bumpers of a vehicle. Of these, the two innermost (centrally located) may not be enabled for load measurement, but function merely to increase the accuracy of sensing the lateral proximity to objects for parking aid purposes. Alternatively two outermost sensor units of the type just described in accordance with the invention may be supplemented by an additional one or more centrally located ultrasonic proximity sensors for detecting lateral proximity only, as is conventional, but with such additional sensor or sensors integrated into the overall system of the invention.

Sensor units could be mounted to any additional axles in a vehicle having more than two axles, but that would add to the overall cost of the system, which is primarily aimed at two axle vans and light goods vehicles.

A further aspect of the present invention is an individual sensor unit, as used in the aforesaid system, such sensor unit incorporating a first ultrasonic transducer mounted so as to emit a signal in a first direction in order to measure a first distance and a second ultrasonic transducer mounted so as to emit a signal in a second direction in order to measure a second distance. Additionally or alternatively, the control panel may include user actuable means for preventing operation of the first and/or second transducers.

In preferred practical embodiments, the or each sensor unit also comprises circuit means connecting the first and second transducers and including, in addition to power supply means, a wireless signal transmitter and a wireless signal receiver. This enables wireless communication with the CPU. However in other embodiments within the scope of the invention wired connections may be provided for signal transmission to reduce production costs.

A motion sensor may be included in the circuit means of each sensor unit. More likely, however, a motion sensor will be included in the CPU or control panel, or possibly motion sensors could be included in both the sensor units and the CPU. Alternatively, motion or lack thereof may be inferred from the stability or instability of the output of the transducers. In such cases, instability in the transducer output would indicate motion.

The display screen may be of any suitable type. La particular the display screen may be an LED based unit, an OLED based unit, an LCD based unit, or similar. The display screen may be operable to display a visual indication of the vehicle loading and/or the distance between the vehicle and adjacent objects. Means may be provided to output an audible indication of the vehicle loading and/or the distance between the vehicle and adjacent objects. The audible indications for vehicle loading may differ from the audible indications of the distance between the vehicle and adjacent objects.

The CPU can be connected to an external data source, system or device. This may be achieved by the provision of suitable input/output ports. External devices or systems may include computers, mobile telephone or computing devices, and vehicle systems including brakes, speed limiters and immobilisers. The CPU can download data, including calibration data, and/or control instructions from said external source, system or device. Furthermore, the CPU can upload data to and/or control said external source, system or device.

The control panel and display screen may be mounted to the dashboard or adjacent the dashboard. Alternatively, the control panel and display screen may be mounted at the rear of the vehicle or inside the loading bay of the vehicle. In some embodiments, an additional control panel and/or display screen may be provided. The additional control panel and display screen may be mounted at the rear of the vehicle or inside the loading bay of the vehicle.

A further aspect of the present invention is a vehicle into which the aforesaid load and parking warning system has been installed.

The invention will be described further, by way of example, by reference to the accompanying drawings, in which: Figure 1 is a schematic perspective view of an embodiment of a sensor unit in accordance with a first aspect of the present invention;

Figure 2 is a schematic plan view of the sensor unit of figure 1 with the top cover removed;

Figures 3 and 4 show how the exemplary sensor unit embodiment of figures 1 and 2 may be mounted to a vehicle bumper or body work;

Figure 5 is a schematic view of a control panel which is part of an exemplary embodiment of a system in accordance with a second aspect of the present invention;

Figures 6 and 7 are diagrammatic side and front views, respectively, illustrating operation of sensor units of the exemplary system when mounted at the front of a vehicle, in accordance with the third aspect of the present invention;

Figures 8 and 9 are similar diagrammatic side and rear views, respectively, illustrating operation of sensor units of the exemplary system when mounted at the rear of a vehicle, in accordance with the third aspect of the present invention;

Figure 10 is a block diagram of the electronic circuit components of an embodiment of a sensor unit in accordance with the invention; and

Figure 11 is a schematic illustration of an embodiment of the overall system in accordance with the invention. With reference to the drawings, the exemplary system comprises four bumper fitting dual ultrasonic weighing and parking sensor units, a dashboard mounted display unit and associated control panel, central processing unit and software.

Each of figures 1, 2, 3, 4 and 10 illustrate a single such sensor unit 30. The unit 30 is shown in figures 1, 3 and 4 as having a wedge shaped housing 32, but many alternative housing shapes are possible to meet requirements for vehicle mounting and streamlining. Pad of the housing 32 may be countersunk through an aperture drilled in the body work 34, as shown in figure 3. Mounting may also be by way of a bracket

36, as shown in figure 4. The housing 32 or bracket 36 may be adapted to allow the housing orientation to be adjusted relative to body work 34. This provides for greater flexibility in terms of mounting position and in terms of the range of vehicles to which the sensor unit 30 can be fitted.

Inside the housing 32 two ultrasonic transducers (indicated schematically at 31 and 33 in figure 2 are mounted for directing ultrasonic beams in two different directions, namely laterally of the vehicle for proximity sensing as a parking aid, and downwards to measure distance to the ground as pad of a load measurement pad of the system, as indicated diagrammatically in figures 3 and 4. The downward beam need not be directly downwards, as shown, and may be at an inclination as the distance measurement to the ground will be taken into account in calibration of the load measuring part of the system. Thus, the downwardly directed, narrow angle ultrasonic beam may be emitted from the second transducer in a direction which is approximately perpendicular to the direction in which the lateral, wide angle ultrasonic beam is emitted from the first transducer.

Alternatively, the beam from the second transducer may be emitted at a downward angle of anything up to 45° from the direction of emission of the beam from the first transducer The first and second transducers will be appropriately arranged or mounted within the sensor unit housing to achieve appropriate relative directions of beam emission.

Also mounted within each sensor unit housing 32 is a printed circuit board including wireless transmitter and receiver devices (indicated schematically at 35 and 37 in figure 2), batteries, and a microprocessor. Of course, in alternative embodiments using wired rather than wireless transmission, power can also be provided by the wire thus enabling the batteries to be omitted.

In the preferred system, two such sensor units 30 are mounted to the vehicle front bumper, nearside and offside (see figures 6 and 7), and two such sensor units 30 are mounted to the vehicle rear bumper, nearside and offside (see figures 8 and 9).

Referring to the figure 11 diagram, offside and nearside front bumper surface mounted dual ultrasonic parking and weighing sensor units, which may differ somewhat from those illustrated in figures 1 to 4, are designated by reference numerals 9 and 13. These sensor units 9, 13 are wired in parallel (reference 18) to vehicle ground and engine battery positive. Integral batteries are charged from the engine battery at +13.8 VDC sufficiently to reserve required operational power. From each sensor unit 9, 13 an ultrasonic wide angle parking beam 10, 14, respectively, is emitted laterally so as to detect proximity of objects whilst the vehicle is moving forwards. These lateral beams 10, 14 are activated and deactivated via a control panel 19 which includes a CPU, the respective ultrasonic transducers being disabled when the handbrake is on via a wiring input 21 from the handbrake to the control panel 19. These ultrasonic transducers are also disabled when a motion sensor within the CPU detects no motion of the vehicle.

Also from each sensor unit 9, 13 an ultrasonic narrow angle weighing beam

11, 15, respectively, is emitted downwards so as to detect proximity of the ground in relation to the bumper/sensor unit 9, 13. These downward beams 11, 15 are also activated and deactivated via the control panel 19, being disabled when the motion sensor within the control panel/CPU detects movement and when the engine is running (voltage sensed) and for 15-minutes thereafter. This is primarily to prevent spurious weight sensing, for example upon entry of a passenger to the vehicle, or during the loading operation.

Two-way data 12, 16, 20 is transmitted and received wirelessly between each sensor unit 9, 13 and the control panel 19, including a unique identifier with each message to determine the address/identity of the respective sensor 9 or 13. Offside and near side rear bumper surface mounted dual ultrasonic parking and weighing sensor units are designated by reference numerals 1 and 5. These rear sensor units 1, 5 are wired in parallel (reference 17) to vehicle ground and to engine battery positive. Integral batteries (not shown) are charged from the engine battery sufficiently to reserve required operational power. From each rear sensor unit 1, San ultrasonic wide angle parking beam 2, 6, respectively is emitted laterally so as to detect proximity of objects whilst the vehicle is reversing. These lateral beams 2, 6 are disabled in the same way as for the front sensor units, namely when the handbrake is on via the wiring input 21 from the handbrake to the control panel 19 or when a motion sensor within the CPU detects no motion of the vehicle. They may also be disabled when the vehicle reversing lights are off (17).

Also from each rear sensor unit 1, 5 an ultrasonic narrow angle weighing beam 3, 7, respectively is emitted downwards so as to detect proximity of the ground in relation to the bumper / sensor unit 1, 5. These downward beams 3, 7 are activated and deactivated via the control panel 19 when the motion sensor in the control panel / CPU 19 detects movement and when the engine is running (voltage sensed) and for 15 minutes thereafter.

Just as for the front sensor units, two-way data 4, 8, 20 is transmitted and received wirelessly between the respective sensor units 1, 5 and the control panel 19, including a unique identifier with each message to determine the address / identity of each sensor unit 1,5. The cab control panel 19, which also includes the central processing unit and display, is shown in greater detail in figure 5. It contains the calibration data, displays the loading status and uses acoustic beeps (increasing in frequency in relation to proximity) as a parking aid. The control panel 19 collects and processes weighing and parking data signals from the sensor units (1, 5, 9 and 13) and transmits data signals back to each sensor unit for the various modes (namely parking or weighing). As previously mentioned, an integral motion sensor is provided to inhibit weighing while the vehicle is in motion and to inhibit proximity sensing while the vehicle is stationary. The control panel 19 may also comprise a user operable control to inhibit operation of weighing mode and/or parking mode on other occasions. The control panel 19 is configured by a PC based calibration/software program - via a CAT 5 port, indicated by reference numeral 21. Diagnostics and fine tuning can also be achieved via this port.

The control panel 19 may incorporate one or more additional input/output ports which may or may not be CAT 5 ports or other suitable types such as USB or serial. These ports can be used to allow a user to program the system or download additional data or software updates. These ports may also allow the sensor to upload data to an external device or control the operation of an external device perhaps thorough a relay. In one potential example, the port may be used to allow the control panel to operate a speed limiter, vehicle immobiliser or similar if specific loading thresholds are exceeded. In order to ensure that the control/display does not become a parasitic load, it powers down to standby mode automatically 15 minutes after the engine is cut off (determined via voltage thresholds - 13.8 VDC).

Weights applied to the vehicle are determined via the incremental distance between the respective sensor units and the ground. These are calibrated and, as shown in figure 5, displayed in 20% increments via LED bars. Different increments can be used in alternative embodiments one such alternative scheme being increments at 50%, 80%, 95%, 100% and 105%. The LED bars may be of different colours, for instance the top load rating LED may be red and the bottom load rating LED green with the intermediate LEDs amber. The control panel may additionally output acoustic warnings whether in the form of audible beeps, sampled speech or otherwise. If audible beeps are used these may be different from those output when in parking mode. In some embodiments, the additional information may be displayed such as whether the measured load is rising or diminishing, an estimate of the current payload weight and an estimate of the additional weight that may be safely loaded.

Rear axle load status/weight is determined from the data provided by the downward beams 7 and 3 of the rear sensor units (1 and 5) and calculating the net average. Front axle load status/weight is determined from the data provided by the downward beams 11 and 15 of the front sensor units (9 and 13) and calculating the net average, Gross load status/gross vehicle weight (GVW) is determined by amalgamating data from the downward beams 7, 3, 11 and 15 of all the sensor units (1, 5, 9 and 13) and calculating the net average. In use, the optimum mounting position for each sensor unit is in the bumper or bodywork of the vehicle aligned above a central location of the respective wheel, In order to calibrate the load weighing part of the system the distance between each sensor unit and the ground is measured and recorded and figures are input to the control panel for these measurements and for the respective front axle and rear axle and gross vehicle capacities of that particular vehicle when unladen and with a full payload. The vehicle is then loaded with a known weight equal to its maximum payload for each axle respectively and for the total vehicle and the measurements of distance between each sensor unit and the ground are taken again and input. This completes the calibration and the control panel will then operate to indicate the loading by the LED bars shown in figure 5. Audible or visual warning means may be included to operate at, say, 75% maximum payload in order to warn the driver although this threshold may be selected or varied by the user.

If required, the control panel displaying the loading % could alternatively be mounted at the rear of the vehicle or inside the loading bay instead of on the dashboard. In a further alternative, a secondary display panel could be provided at the rear of the vehicle or inside the loading bay in addition to one on the dashboard. The secondary display may be identical to the first but may have limited functionality with regard to controlling system operation. In a further possibility, the control panel could be operable to communicate data to an external monitoring system such as a personal computer, mobile device or similar via a communications network such as GSM,

GPRS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or similar. This communication may be real time streaming and may in particular communicate data to a fleet control unit for record keeping purposes. The streamed data may be more detailed than the displayed data.

It will not be necessary to calibrate each individual vehicle. Calibration can be undertaken for a particular vehicle make/model on a standard test bed and, provided that the sensor units are mounted in a predetermined position, the preconfigured calibration for the relevant make/model can be loaded into the control unit of the vehicle from a software program or downloaded via an input/output port, as mentioned above. Further details of the vehicle tyres, suspension or other modifications may be required to ensure the correct calibration settings are selected. There may be one or more alternative calibration settings for different sensor unit positions.

As mentioned previously, in the preferred system, two sensor units are mounted approximately symmetrically in the vicinity of each axle. This enables any lateral inclination of the vehicle to be taken into account automatically when computing the front or rear axle load, as the load which is lighter, and is detected from the greater distance to the ground at that side, is combined with the correspondingly heavier load, detected from the shorter distance to the ground at the other side, as illustrated schematically in figures 7 and 9. Moreover, the load weights are generally more accurate when derived from two (or more) sensor units in this way. However, in a less desirable, but possible system a single sensor could be used at each end of the vehicle. It is also possible to provide three or more sensor units at either or both of the front and rear of the vehicle although the increased cost of providing such additional sensors may not be acceptable in many applications. Whilst the embodiments herein have utilised equal numbers of sensor units at the front and rear of the vehicle, it is possible that unequal numbers may be provided in some embodiments.

As regards the parking warning part of the system, proximity sensing as undertaken by the ultrasonic devices in the sensor units which produced a wide angle laterally directed parking beam (2, 6 and 10, 14 in figure 11) is a known technology. Distance to adjacent objects is determined by the central processing unit from data concerning the time for the emitted sound wave to be "echoed" back. An audible warning device under control of the central processing unit emits acoustic beeps increasing in frequency as the adjacent object or surface is approached.

The above described system is believed to provide numerous advantages, particularly for operators of commercial fleets of two axle vans and light goods vehicles. Legislation sets limits for vehicle axle and gross weight loading of vehicles and the proposed system provides a cost-effective way for drivers and operators to be immediately informed of the existing payload so as to be able to avoid overloading and the attendant risk of fines, or risk of other safety infringements or accidents, At the same time, the system provides a tool to enable fleet operators to maximise payload, but within the legal limits.

The foregoing it is illustrative and not limitative of the scope of the invention.

As previously noted, variations in detail are possible in other embodiments of the sensor unit and the overall system and the vehicle mounted system without departing from the scope of the appended claims.

Claims

1. A vehicle load and parking warning system comprising a plurality of sensor units, at least one for mounting on or in the vicinity of the front axle of the vehicle and at least one for mounting on or in the vicinity of the rear axle of the vehicle, a central processing unit (CPU) for mounting in or on the vehicle for controlling the sensor units and receiving data from them, and a control panel and display screen, connected to or integral with the CPU and also for mounting in or on the vehicle, each sensor unit comprising a first ultrasonic transducer mounted so as to emit a signal in a first direction in order to measure a first distance and a second ultrasonic transducer mounted so as to emit a signal in a second direction in order to measure a second distance, the sensor units being operable under control of the central processing unit so that the first transducers provide data on the distance between the vehicle and adjacent objects as a parking aid, while the second transducers provide data on the distance between part of the vehicle and the ground as a measure of the loading of the vehicle.
2. A system according to claim 1 wherein four sensor units are provided, two for mounting to the vehicle substantially symmetrically in the vicinity of the front axle, and two for mounting to the vehicle substantially symmetrically in the vicinity of the rear axle.
3. A system according to claim 1 or 2 wherein the CPU includes a motion sensor for sensing movement of the vehicle in forward or rearward direction and thereby controls the sensor units to prevent operation of the second transducers when the vehicle is in motion, and to prevent operation of the first transducers when the vehicle is stationary.
4. A system according to any preceding claim wherein the control panel includes user actuable means for preventing operation of the first and/or second transducers.
5. A system according to any preceding claim wherein the CPU includes radio transmitter and receiver means to enable wireless communication with the sensor units.
6. A system according to any preceding claim wherein the display screen is operable to display a visual indication of the vehicle loading and/or the distance between the vehicle and adjacent objects.
7. A system according to any preceding claim wherein the means are provided to output an audible indication of the vehicle loading and/or the distance between the vehicle and adjacent objects.
8. A system according to claim 7 wherein the audible indications for vehicle loading differ from the audible indications of the distance between the vehicle and adjacent objects.
9. A system according to any preceding claim wherein the CPU can be connected to an external data source, system or device.
10. A system according to claim 9 wherein the CPU can download data and/or control instructions from said external source, system or device.
11. A system according to claim 9 or claim 10 wherein the CPU can upload data to and/or control said external source, system or device.
12. A system according to any preceding claim wherein an additional control panel and/or display screen are provided.
13. A vehicle incorporating a vehicle load and parking warning system as defined in any of claims 1 to 4 and having at least one sensor unit mounted on or in the vicinity of the front axle and at least one sensor unit mounted on or in the vicinity of the rear axle, the sensor units being mounted in each case so that the first transducer is arranged to emit its signal in a substantially horizontal direction, or in a direction substantially parallel with the ground, while the second transducer is arranged to emit its signal in a direction downwards towards the ground, the central processing unit (CPU) mounted in or on the vehicle, and the control panel and display screen, also mounted in or on the vehicle, the sensor units being operable under control of the central processing unit so that the first transducers provide data on the distance between the vehicle and adjacent objects as a parking aid, while the second transducers provide data on the distance between part of the vehicle and the ground as a measure of the loading of the vehicle.
14. A vehicle according to claim 13 having four sensor units mounted thereon, two of the four sensor units being mounted substantially symmetrically in the vicinity of the front axle and the other two of the four sensor units being mounted thereon substantially symmetrically in the vicinity of the rear axle.
15. A vehicle according to claim 13 or claim 14 wherein the respective sensor units are mounted to the front and rear bumpers.
16. A vehicle according to any one of claims 13 to 15 wherein the control panel and display screen are mounted to the dashboard or adjacent the dashboard.
17. A vehicle according to any one of claims 13 to 15 wherein the control panel and display screen are mounted at the rear of the vehicle or inside the loading bay of the vehicle.
18. A vehicle according to any one of claims 13 to 16 wherein an additional control panel and/or display screen is mounted at the rear of the vehicle or inside the loading bay of the vehicle.
PCT/GB2008/002091 2007-06-23 2008-06-19 A sensor unit and a vehicle load and parking warning system incorporating such sensor units WO2009001039A1 (en)

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US9269876B2 (en) 2012-03-06 2016-02-23 Soraa, Inc. Light emitting diodes with low refractive index material layers to reduce light guiding effects
US9978904B2 (en) 2012-10-16 2018-05-22 Soraa, Inc. Indium gallium nitride light emitting devices
US9761763B2 (en) 2012-12-21 2017-09-12 Soraa, Inc. Dense-luminescent-materials-coated violet LEDs
US8994033B2 (en) 2013-07-09 2015-03-31 Soraa, Inc. Contacts for an n-type gallium and nitrogen substrate for optical devices
US9410664B2 (en) 2013-08-29 2016-08-09 Soraa, Inc. Circadian friendly LED light source

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