OWL magnet-mounts on the roof of a pilot car and is plugged into a laptop with an operating program. It knows how far from the road it is, and includes that in its vertical obstacle measurements. Photo: LSA Autonomy

OWL magnet-mounts on the roof of a pilot car and is plugged into a laptop with an operating program. It knows how far from the road it is, and includes that in its vertical obstacle measurements. Photo: LSA Autonomy

Rigs carrying oversize loads follow routes carefully planned to avoid tight clearances. In many states, they’re escorted by pilot cars with signs and flashing amber lights to warn traffic ahead that something big is approaching.

Sometimes the pilot vehicle has a pole on its front bumper to gauge overhead obstructions. If the pre-set pole is too high to clear an object above, the pilot car’s driver can warn the rig behind.

That doesn’t always work, as we saw in that I-5 bridge collapse north of Seattle back in 2013. The pilot pole bumped the bridge’s overhead truss, but there wasn’t time to warn the rig’s driver, following at a brisk pace 550 feet behind. A story's here.

But technology can help. LSA Autonomy and Velodyne LiDAR have introduced the Overhead Wire Laser Detector, or OWL. A press release explained that the device mounts on the pilot car and plugs into a programmed laptop. Its software sensor processes sensor signals to measure wires and other objects ahead.

When clearances are insufficient, the system alerts the operator with audible and visual warnings, while providing photographic imaging for clarity. An informational video shows what’s on the display screen. 

OWL works at highway speeds, making it valuable for pre-transport route surveys, the statement said. However, when used for escorting, the pilot car’s driver should limit road speed to 25 mph to allow for sufficient stopping time.

The OWL system was developed at the request of one of the world’s leading advanced technology companies, said the statement. This was after an incident in which an oversize transport caught a communication wire, snapping a telephone pole and bringing down a power line that caused a regional blackout. It also damaged a transport vehicle, “imperiling the lives of transport crew members,” the statement declared.

“In its first use, when deployed in tandem with the traditional pole methodology, the OWL prevented an accident by alerting the transport driver to an obstruction that the lead poles failed to detect due to the crown of the road,” the release concluded.

After watching the OWL video, we came upon another YouTube video about the Giraffe G4, sold by the EZ Truck Store. It's informative and entertaining, and is here

Could these devices make poles obsolete?

Author

Tom Berg
Tom Berg

Tom Berg

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational trucks and trailers of all types.

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Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational trucks and trailers of all types.

View Bio
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