Quad bikes are handy tools for farm workers, but their short wheelbase and narrow track makes them prone to rollovers. The danger is so great, employers in Victoria, Australia are being forced to fit hoops to protect riders from being crushed on the job. A Spanish team has created Air-Rops, a system which automatically deploys rollover protection when it detects a roll to keep people safe not only on ATVs, but also tractors, ride-on lawnmowers, and other agricultural machinery.
Although the motivation behind rollover hoops is noble, creating a practical one isn't all that easy. Fixed devices tend to get stuck on low-hanging branches, and foldable roll-hoops tend to spend most of their time, well, folded away because of the effort involved in taking them down when they get in the way.
The Air-Rops automatic rollover protection system is designed to circumvent these issues by automatically expanding when it detects a rollover. The system relies on an accelerometer, gyroscope and inclinometer to detect an "irreversible overturn situation." When a vehicle reaches that point, the hoop extends upwards and outwards to create a large safe space in just 150 milliseconds.
Inside the hoop's corrosion-resistant metal frame, there's a triggering device, gas generator and a latching mechanism. Air-Rops says the gas generator is similar to the ones found in car airbags, making for a quick pop up when it's called on.
Should one element of the system fail, there are a set of redundancies built in. As well as a background warning system, which tells drivers when something's not working, a backup battery is fitted to make sure an electrical system failure doesn't stop the hoop activating. The control unit has also been designed with redundant channels built in, so if one element fails it should still react to the rollover.
At the moment, the Air-Rops team is in talks with ATV and ride-on lawnmower manufacturers and dealers about fitting its product to vehicles and has also received interest from tractor dealers and agricultural companies. The company is currently focused on developing the ECU to meet functional safety standards and is looking to conduct environmental, mechanical resistance and field tests, which are planned for 2017 and 2018, with the hopes of getting the system on the market at the end of 2018.
The video below provides an overview of the system.
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