MAN Truck & Bus

Albert Zaindl, chief developer of the MAN OptiView mirror replacement system

There is no more blind spot

The new MAN OptiView assistance system ensures greater safety in many situations. Because the driver has everything around his truck in view. Developer Albert Zaindl reports on the successful development of this complex system.

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Albert Zaindl (37)

is the man behind MAN's new OptiView system and the system manager for the mirror replacement system in trucks.

Mr. Zaindl, in the past year you have been on the road in Spain several times at outside temperatures of almost 40 degrees Celsius. Why?

Zaindl We carried out our summer tests there and tested how our OptiView mirror replacement works at high temperatures. In winter we did similar tests in Lapland - at minus 30 degrees Celsius - and were able to find and fix some problems. For example, we found that the heating we had planned for minus temperatures could be counterproductive. At certain temperatures, it caused icicles to form on the camera lens. In addition, the lighting conditions in the north, for example, are completely different from those in the south, and we can only experience the influence on the system on site. Trials are part of the development of a new product and are really very helpful because you always come across problems that you wouldn't have thought of in theory.

OptiView is your "baby", so to speak. You developed the system from scratch and brought it to series maturity. How did you actually get involved?

Zaindl I studied mechanical engineering and already dealt with human perception during my studies. In 2011, I was in the middle of my doctoral thesis when MAN started a research project on mirror replacement together with TUM. My professor suggested me for the project because of my previous knowledge. Of course I found that totally exciting and accepted. Then I spent three years developing the idea as part of a research project and later made it ready for production in series development.

Can you briefly explain what OptiView is and what makes it special?

Zaindl OptiView is a mirror replacement system for trucks. It allows drivers to see on a display what the various mirrors previously showed them - and even more. With OptiView, there are no more blind spots. The system also automatically provides additional views that are switched on in different driving situations. In the city, for example, this is an oversized wide-angle view; when driving fast on the motorway, it is a zoom view. In this way, drivers always have an optimal view of everything. Incidentally, this also ensures more safety when spending the night at the rest area: if something moves outside, all you have to do is switch on the system and you can see exactly what is happening around the truck. So you no longer have to open the curtains or even get out and possibly put yourself in danger.

How did you go about developing this completely new and complex product?

Zaindl The first step was to determine the status quo. In other words, to look at how drivers really use the mirrors. To do this, my colleagues and I analysed accident statistics, for example, and conducted driving tests in which the drivers wore glasses equipped with cameras that filmed their eye movements. The first concepts were then developed on this basis. In the next step, we built the first, simple mirror replacement systems with parts from the normal electrical trade and integrated them into test vehicles. This allowed us to quickly see what worked and what didn't and also to change things again and again very quickly and inexpensively.

So as a developer, you are above all a tinkerer?

Zaindl In research, definitely, you can and must try out many things freely. In series development, things are different. It's all about developing the product idea further so that it can actually be mass-produced and work in everyday life. That is a completely different kind of work.

What exactly happens during series development?

Zaindl (laughs) I asked myself that when I joined OptiView after finishing the research project. I thought: We already have everything and can start production soon. But in fact, the work in series development is just beginning. On the one hand, the system has to be made suitable for commercial vehicles - in other words, it has to withstand a truck's life under the toughest practical conditions and in every situation without any problems. To do this, many component and driving tests have to be carried out and optimisations have to be made again and again. All of this, of course, is done in close cooperation with the suppliers and other departments at MAN. In the case of OptiView, a completely new system also had to be developed from scratch. And of course the product has to be optimised so that it can be produced quickly and efficiently on the assembly line. None of this is trivial and it takes time. It took us about ten years from the first idea to series production.

Do you think you need a special mentality as a developer?

Zaindl The path from the first idea to a product ready for series production is long. You should be prepared for that. And you should also be prepared for the fact that there are always setbacks or that you have to rethink things from scratch. Then you have to roll up your sleeves and keep going. I think you need this attitude.

How do you feel about the market launch of MAN OptiView, which is scheduled for the end of this year?

Zaindl Of course, I am very curious to see how the system will be received in the market. The feedback from our test runs with drivers was very good, but of course there will be people who still prefer to drive with mirrors. But I am prepared for that. Above all, I am happy that OptiView is finally coming onto the road.

What is your conclusion after about ten years of development?

Zaindl For me, it was and is a great opportunity to be able to develop a product from scratch. Of course, there have always been difficult moments, but the joy of the work has clearly outweighed them. I learned a lot during this time, both professionally and as a person. For example, how important it is that colleagues with different skills and characters work together in a team. It's incredibly helpful when you can have controversial discussions. That's what really moves a project forward. Provided, of course, that you remain cooperative and binding. And that has always been the case with us.

What will happen to you and your team when OptiView is on the road?

Zaindl That is still open at the moment. But what I can say is: We already have many ideas for the second generation of the system!

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