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Title:
LOAD MEASUREMENT SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2007/082931
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The invention provides a vehicle load measurement system. The system is provided to determine variances in the deflection of a tyre downwardly onto the surface on which the vehicle is located. Such deflection can be measured by providing a sensor co-located with a tyre which provides as an output a measurement of the distance from the sensor to the ground. Variances in this distance can be used as an indicator of the load carried by the vehicle. By providing a measurement system for each load bearing tyre of the vehicle, the system of the invention enables a measurement of the overall load being carried by the vehicle.

Inventors:
HYNES, Eamon (2 Church Road, Raheen, Limerick, IE)
MARTIN, James (Ballingoola, Grange Kilmallock, Limerick, IE)
HYNES, Colm (16 Foxwood, Garryduff Rochestown, Cork, IE)
RYAN, Austin (Ballybricken, Grange Kilmallock, Limerick, IE)
Application Number:
EP2007/050534
Publication Date:
July 26, 2007
Filing Date:
January 19, 2007
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
HYNES, Eamon (2 Church Road, Raheen, Limerick, IE)
MARTIN, James (Ballingoola, Grange Kilmallock, Limerick, IE)
HYNES, Colm (16 Foxwood, Garryduff Rochestown, Cork, IE)
RYAN, Austin (Ballybricken, Grange Kilmallock, Limerick, IE)
International Classes:
G01G19/08
Foreign References:
JPH1054751A1998-02-24
US5793285A1998-08-11
JPH11258029A1999-09-24
JPH08210905A1996-08-20
JPH11304662A1999-11-05
US6449582B12002-09-10
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Hanna Moore & Curley (13 Lower Lad Lane, Dublin 2, IE)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1 . A vehicle load measurement system configured to provide as an output a measurement of an applied load being carried by the vehicle, the system comprising: a. A measurement module provided for each load bearing tyre of the vehicle, the measurement module having at least one sensor being located on the vehicle at a position whose distance relative to the ground is only a function of the load applied to the tyre, the at least one sensor being configured to provide a measurement of tyre deflection due to applied load, the measurement provided by each sensor providing a data set for each measurement module, and b. A processing system configured to use the data sets of each measurement module to provide a measurement indicative of the load supported by that tyre, the processing system being configured to further combine the plurality of measurements indicative of the load supported by each tyre to a measurement indicative of the load carried by the vehicle.

2. The system as claimed in claim 1 wherein at least one sensor configured to provide the measurement of tyre deflection due to applied load is configured to provide a measurement value indicative of the distance of the axle supporting the tyre from the ground.

3. The system of any preceding claim wherein the measurement module includes at least one additional sensor being configured to monitor a specific parameter selected from one of the pressure of the tyre and the temperature of the tyre.

4. The system as claimed in claim 3 wherein the tyre temperature and pressure sensors are configured to provide a measurement of the temperature and pressure within the tyre.

5. The system as claimed in any preceding claim wherein the processing system is configured to average the measurements resultant from each of the tyres to provide the measurement indicative of the load carried by the vehicle. 6. The system as claimed in any preceding claim wherein the measurement module is configured to communicate wirelessly with the processing system.

7. The system as claimed in any preceding claim further including a display, the display enabling a display of the measurement indicative of the load carried by the vehicle.

8. The system as claimed in claim 7 wherein the display is provided on the vehicle.

9. The system as claimed in claim 7 wherein the display is provided remotely from the vehicle, the system further including communication means providing a communication channel between the display and the processing system so as to enable a transfer of the data relating to the measurement indicative of the load being carried by the vehicle.

10. The system as claimed in claim 9 wherein the communication channel is activated remotely from the vehicle, thereby enabling an external party to control the display of the measurement indicative of the load being carried by the vehicle.

1 1 . The system as claimed in any preceding claim wherein measurement modules provide a continuous output of the parameters measured by the sensors, the processing system being configured to monitor these outputs for trends or anomalies within the outputs so as to provide an indicator of a tyre failure.

12. The system as claimed in claim 2 wherein the distance sensor is provided within each tyre.

13. The system as claimed in claim 2 wherein the distance sensor is located on an axle adjacent to the tyre it is measuring.

14. The system as claimed in claim 2 wherein the measurement module includes a second distance measurement sensor, the second distance measurement sensor being configured to determine distance of the axle supporting the tyre from the chassis of the vehicle. 15. The system as claimed in any preceding claim wherein the tyre deflection measurement is in a direction downwardly onto the surface on which the vehicle is located. 16. The system as claimed in any preceding claim further including a tilt measurement sensor, the tilt measurement system providing an indication of the difference between the tyre deflection measurement and the direction of the gravitational vector.

Description:

Title

Load Measurement System Field of the Invention The present invention relates to a load measurement system and in particular to a load measurement system that is configured to measure the load carried by automotive vehicles or structures with pneumatic wheels such as cranes or the like.

Background

It is useful for billing reasons and often a legal requirement for safety reasons to weigh the contents of vehicles or structures with pneumatic wheels, goods vehicles are a particularly common case in point. For goods vehicles this has traditionally been achieved using roadside weigh stations that weigh the vehicle, and calculate the weight of the load by subtracting the un-loaded vehicle weight. Some of the disadvantages of this approach are that the vehicle owner pays for this weighing service each time the vehicle is measured, there are a limited number of weigh scales which are not always on the route of the produce, thus requiring expensive detours and there can be delays and queuing. Furthermore, such techniques require the installation and servicing of such weigh stations, and also require the knowledge of the un-loaded vehicle weight.

As a result of these and other costs and disadvantages, there is a trend away from such roadside installations to a situation where the vehicle can provide an indication of the weight it is carrying. By having vehicles fitted with on-board weighing systems it is possible to eliminate the need to use weigh stations. These on-board systems can calculate load weight using a variety of methods. One approach is to use load cells inserted between the vehicle load-

bearing surface and the chassis. Once a load is applied, the load cells deflect and the resulting strain in the load cells can be converted into an applied weight. Another approach is to exploit the air suspension already installed on some heavy goods vehicles, as a load is applied the air suspension increases the system pneumatic pressure to maintain the trailer height, this increase in pressure can be converted to load weight. A further alternative is described in WO0186239 which describes the use of a temperature calibrated tyre pressure measurement to determine the weight that would have caused the changes in pressure from an initial pressure measurement. US patent 6449582 uses a combination of tyre pressure and temperature to try to determine vehicle load. A similar approach is described in JP1 1258029. An alternative is described in JP 04161827 which uses a combination of the deflection of an air spring in the vehicle suspension and the air pressure within that spring to attempt to calculate the load on the vehicle.

While these systems are an improvement on the weigh scale there are some disadvantages with current solutions. After-market installation of load cells requires the load-bearing surface of the vehicle to be removed at high cost (by crane or hydraulic lift for example), to allow the (expensive) load cell technology to be installed.

The air suspension approach is limited to vehicles using air suspension which does not represent all goods vehicles, in addition the system accuracy may not be capable of meeting legislative requirements.

The pressure measurement system requires knowledge of the initial pressure within the tyre before the weight was added.

As a result there is a further need to provide a load measurement system which addressed these and other problems.

In addition, there is a further need to provide a system capable of measuring static load (for example the weight of goods in a vehicle) which can also be used to measure the dynamic or changing load (and load distribution) during acceleration, braking or cornering.

Summary

Accordingly, the invention provides a vehicle load measurement system that is based on tyre deflection arising from changes of applied load to the tyre. A system in accordance with the teaching of the invention uses a plurality of measurement points located about the vehicle, desirably one measurement point per load bearing tyre, and provides for a measurement in the distance of these measurement points relative to the road surfaces as an indicator of the applied load on the tyre.

By combining measurements from each of the load bearing tyres it is possible to provide a measurement of the overall load on the vehicle which provides an indication of the weight being carried by the vehicle. As there are a number of measurement points distributed about the vehicle it is possible to evaluate the distribution of load on the vehicle- either to ensure that the load is evenly distributed or to sense variances or movements in that load during travel of the vehicle.

The measurement points are desirably located on the vehicle at positions whose distance relative to the ground is a function of deformation of the tyre and not resultant from any vehicle suspension effects. The tyre may be considered as a spring system whose compression or deformation is a function of a number of parameters including the contact surface between the tyre and the road surface, the properties of the side wall of the tyre and the pressurised air within the tyre. The spring system will react to an applied force and if the

applied force is greater than the normal load on the vehicle, the reaction will result in a travel towards the ground. By measuring this travel- by monitoring variances in the relative distance of a sensor to the ground whose movement is only a function of this spring system- it is possible to define the load that caused the travel. Therefore while the level of accuracy required for the load measurement may require a plurality of measurements including tyre pressure, temperature of the air within the tyre, it is the provision of a measurement indicative of the relative distance of this sensor to the ground that provides a measure of the weight that is carried within the vehicle. The sensor may be located at any position within the vehicle that moves relative to the ground as a result of actions on this spring system, one suitable location being on or at the axle of the vehicle in a region adjacent to the vehicle load bearing tyre. Such a sensor could be used to provide a measure of the deflection of the tyre axle towards the ground and optionally also the movement of the axle from the vehicle chassis to provide the measurement of the weight of the vehicle being applied at that tyre.

The invention therefore provides a measurement system as detailed in claim 1 . Advantageous embodiments are provided in the dependent claims.

These and other features of the invention will be better understood with reference to the following drawings.

Brief Description of the Drawings Figure 1 is a schematic of a vehicle incorporating a load measurement system according to the invention.

Figure 2 is a schematic of components of the load measurement system of Figure 1 .

Figure 3 is a graphical representation of the type of data that may be stored as part of the calibration process.

Detailed Description of the Drawings

The present invention provides a system that allows on-board load weighing to be achieved. The system can be installed on a variety of different types of vehicles, independent of the suspension technology utilised for the vehicle- differing from the air suspension techniques of the prior art described in the Background section. Furthermore, the system of the present invention may be installed without requiring a removal of the load bearing surface during installation (as is required by load cell technology). The system of the present invention may be installed either as original equipment from the vehicle manufacturer or as an after-market sale option.

The present invention utilises the realisation that the weight of any vehicle load is transferred to the road surface through the tyres, and the sum of the loads (weights) supported by each tyre is equal to the total load (weight) of the vehicle plus its payload. This is the same weight that was traditionally measured by weigh scales. If the load supported by each tyre can be measured by systems on-board the vehicle, the requirement for weigh-scales is eliminated. To reduce the invention principle described above to practice, the load (weight) on each tyre must typically be measured. Although measurement at one tyre may provide an indicative measurement of the weight being carried by the vehicle it makes the assumption that the weight is evenly distributed throughout the vehicle. As such it is more accurate to take a measurement from each load bearing tyre or clusters of tyres in those arrangement where multiple wheels are supported on each axle. Exemplary embodiments of the invention will now be described with reference to Figures 1 to 3.

When a tyre is loaded, the load causes an increase in pressure inside the tyre and a deflection of the tyre, the system reaches equilibrium when the load applied is fully supported by the tyres. The deflection of the tyre results in the

vehicle axle (or wheel hub) moving closer to the road surface. The distance travelled as a result of this movement is a function of several factors including: the applied load, the pressure inside the tyre, the mechanical properties of the tyre and the ambient temperature.

By adding a measurement system to the vehicle that measures all the relevant parameters, the vehicle weight can be known to a high degree of accuracy. However if only a distance travel measurement is provided, the contribution of the other parameters can be assumed to be a constant. As mentioned above each of the load bearing tyres can be considered a spring system where the force (F) applied to the spring system causes a movement of the system as defined by a distance measurement (d) and a constant for the system (k):

F=k * d Equation 1 .

The force applied is also a function of the applied mass (m) and the acceleration (a):

F=m * a Equation 2

With "a" being the acceleration due to gravity (9.8ms 2 ) it is possible in a closed system to measure the distance travelled and determine the mass that caused that distance travel. As mentioned above, the value of k is a function of a number of different parameters, some of which are static ( for example the nature of the tyre) and some of which are dynamic ( for example the temperature at which the measurement is taken, which will vary). The dynamic parameters can be measured by including additional sensors within the

measurement system. Furthermore it will be appreciated that although Equation 1 and 2 would infer that the distance measurement has a linear relationship with mass, this is a simplification of the fact, as the relationship between the distance measurement and mass may be non-linear. In this manner, Equation 2 could be represented by a plurality of k measurements, k1 x + k2x 2 + etc..

As shown in Figure 1 , which shows in schematic form, a vehicle 100 provided with a measurement system of the present invention, has on each of the load bearing wheels a measurement module 1 10. Each measurement module 1 10 is configured to measure a plurality of different measurements specific to each wheel. An example of the measurement component subsystems that are provided in the measurement module is shown in Figure 2. In this example, the system is configured to measure the pressure (component 205) and temperature (component 210) within each load-bearing tyre

It will be understood that the temperature measurement is important from a Gas Law perspective. If the temperature rose the pressure would increase (even with no additional load) and the distance to the road could also increase (as the tyre "inflated") due to temperature. It may be necessary in certain installations to add in addition to the temperature sensor within the tyre, an additional sensor configured to determine the temperature outside the tyre.

According to the teaching of the invention it is important to measure the deflection of the load bearing tyre downwardly, in the direction of the gravitational vector, this deflection arising due to the applied load. In circumstances where the vehicle is travelling on a steep incline it will be appreciated that the vector defining the deflection of the load bearing tyre towards the ground is not parallel to the gravitational vector. This discrepancy can be countered or compensated by inclusion of a tilt sensor within the measurement system of the invention, the tilt sensor defining the actual angle

between the deflection vector and the gravitational vector. By suitable calibration such differences can be used to equate the actual deflection with what would be expected if that deflection was parallel to the gravitational vector.

As shown in Figure 2, one approach to the deflection measurement is to provide a distance measurement distance measurement configured to measure the distance to the road surface from each tyre axle that supports a load bearing tyre. One suitable arrangement is to have a sensor locked to the axle (or at a fixed distance with respect to the axle) and measure the distance to the road surface. Another method is to place sensors inside the tyre. In both these arrangements the movement of the sensor is not affected by the vehicle suspension, it is on the road side of the suspension unit. As shown in the arrangement of Figure 2, a distance measurement component 215 is configured to measure the distance to the road surface from each tyre axle. The invention makes use of measurements from load-bearing tyres and as such it is necessary to be able to determine if a tyre is load bearing or not. One option is to measure each tyre and then one can definitively state that the total load has been catered for. Another alternative is to use the distance of the axle from the road which should be indicative of whether the tyre is load-bearing. To provide for this an embodiment of the invention (not shown) provides for an optional distance measurement from the axle "up" to the chassis in addition to the measurement from the axle "down" to the road surface. It will be further understood that the provision of this second distance measurement is advantageous in that it provides for an averaging of the actual distance from the axle to the road over bouncy road conditions when travelling over an uneven road surface.

By applying measurement sensors to each of the load bearing tyres it is possible to monitor for load shifting during transportation of the load, which can serve as an early warning for the operator of the vehicle to ensure that there is

no damage done resultant from that load shift. As the load is distributed non- evenly about the vehicle, the values output from each of the sensors at individual load bearing tyres will vary.

Furthermore, it is possible to possible to simply provide an indication as to when the load applied to the vehicle exceeds a predetermined value- so as to provide indication of overloading as opposed to the actual weight carried. Such an embodiment is particularly useful for transportation of unknown weights where there is a possibility that the actual weight loaded may exceed the permitted values for particular road. By providing an overload indicator within the vehicle it is possible for the operator at the time of loading to ensure that the weight being loaded is within permitted values and unload as necessary. This is particularly useful where the loading is being effected at locations that are not provided with a weigh bridge or the actual weight of the goods for which transportation is intended is not known.

The collected data from each of the sub-modules is then compiled and transmitted to a central processor 1 15 which uses calibration data 220 to account for the mechanical properties of the tyres. By compiling data from each of the load bearing tyres the vehicle weight can be determined. As the actual weight of the vehicle should be constant, the measurement will allow a determination of the amount of excess weight that has been loaded, i.e. the weight of goods being carried by the vehicle. This determined weight can be either displayed on a visual display 225 ( or some other communication device) that is desirably located on a prominent area of the vehicle- for example the vehicle dashboard- or can be communicated over a wireless communication link to a remote processing system for analysis or display. Examples of such remote processing systems include statutory bodies responsible for ensuring that vehicles are not over laden (and in this case the communication will typically be encrypted and include an identifier of the vehicle in question). Other examples

include a vehicle fleet operator, which manages a plurality of vehicles and needs to ensure that each of the vehicles are operating within the legal parameters. This type of communication is known for other types of vehicle data- for example vehicle position but heretofore it has not been possible to accurately ensure that a vehicle is operating within the legal weight limits without physically stopping and checking the vehicle.

The system of the present invention has the added advantage that the pressure of each tyre on the vehicle can be monitored for safety and fuel economy reasons and leaks/punctures can be identified and corrected prior to any accident. As the system can operate continuously, once a set of operating parameters are met for a fixed weight, any change in those parameters is indicative of a problem in one or more of the tyres. Such advance warning may be used to provide a warning indicator to the driver of the vehicle.

Each of the sensors or sub-modules provided in the tyre measurement module 100 may be provided using a variety of different means. For example, the distance to the road surface and chassis can be measured using infra-red, radar, laser ultrasound or any distance measurement technology, as will be appreciated by the person skilled in the art. The distance sensor to measure distance to the road surface can be placed on the axle adjacent to each tyre (or tyres) or even within each tyre. The in-tyre pressure and temperature can be measured with active (powered) sensors or electronics incorporated inside the tyre (for example on the wheel rim, inside the valve stem or attached to or within the tyre rubber itself) and the information transmitted to an external receiver module via an RF (radio frequency) or other remote link.

It will be appreciated that a wireless link providing the communication of data from within each tyre to the outside controller is preferable to a wired option. One option for a wired system would however be the use of a "sliding"

contact at the wheel bearing - like a commutator used in electric motors. However, in most instances this would be impractical because it would require custom wheels and hubs.

Alternatively a passive in-tyre sensor system can be used where an external module can interrogate in-tyre sensors that have no built-in power sources. Such a passive device may be provided by for example a surface acoustic device which is pinged and provides a response based on the operating characteristics, an RF device which is irradiated with RF power to elicit a desired response or indeed a device of the type that absorbs power at a frequency that is proportional to temperature or pressure- depending on the type of sensor.

By combining the data from these measurement systems together and using a calibration curve and/or a model for a particular vehicle/tyre, unknown loads can be determined by referencing the calibration data and/or the load model. It will be understood that a load model may be required for each type or class of vehicle or indeed for each specific manufacturer. A plurality of different load models may be provided and the correct one is then used in the comparison process.

Depending on the repeatability of the mechanical characteristics of tyres and the accuracy requirement from the system, a once-off calibration per vehicle may be all that is required. For other applications it may be necessary to re-calibrate the system at specified intervals of time/distance travelled/tyre condition. Knowledge of the tyre make/model and/or size alone may be sufficient to allow measurement without calibration, the practical use of this approach will depend on the accuracy requirements for the load measurement.

Zero load correction is possible with this system by setting the un-laden weight of the vehicle to zero, thereby only the additional loads will register as load weight.

In order to provide the desired information, the system of the invention typically includes an on-board processor that provides a visual reading on request. It is also possible to enable the system to communicate with remote entities, for example as you drive by a toll booth that the actual load of the vehicle will be transmitted to the toll booth. The implemented version will be customizable by the user of the system as it will be appreciated that it is possible to have the information displayed locally on the vehicle, all the history stored locally, also have a transmitter sending the information to a fleet manager and in addition to transmit the information to a toll booth or other "interested party".

It will be understood that an accurate assessment if the load carried by the vehicle requires an accurate calibration set for use when comparing the measured values from each of the sensor to give an output from the system. Figure 3, shows as an example, a plot of some of the data generated from a system in accordance with the invention. The deflection (in millimetres) is plotted versus load (in kilograms) for two different tyre pressures (30 psi and 40 psi) for a given temperature. If (at this temperature) an unknown load is now applied and for this example assuming a pressure of 30psi, the weight in kilograms of the unknown load can be determined by measuring the deflection and using the blue curve to read off the equivalent load. By characterising the system over a range of pressures, temperatures and deflections, a mathematical model and/or look-up table will allow any unknown load (weight) to be determined for any combination of pressure, temperature and deflection.

It will bθ appreciated that an exemplary embodiment of a vehicle load measurement system has been described. By providing a measurement system for each load bearing tyre of the vehicle, the system of the invention enables a measurement of a deflection of the tyre towards the ground to provide an indication of the weight being carried by the vehicle. When coupled with tyre pressure measurement and the operating temperature improved accuracy is provided. The measurements provided from each load bearing tyre are then used to provide a weight measurement indicative of the weight of the load of the vehicle.

It will be understood that a system in accordance with the teaching of the invention determines variances in the deflection of a tyre downwardly onto the surface on which the vehicle is located. Such deflection can be measured by providing a sensor co-located with a tyre which provides as an output a measurement of the distance from the sensor to the ground. Variances in this distance can be used as an indicator of the load carried by the vehicle. By providing a measurement system for each load bearing tyre of the vehicle, the system of the invention enables a measurement of the overall load being carried by the vehicle. Although specific embodiments and parameters have been used to explain the operation of the invention it will be appreciated that modifications can be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention, which is not to be limited in any way except as may be deemed necessary in the light of the appended claims.

The words comprises/comprising when used in this specification are to specify the presence of stated features, integers, steps or components but does not preclude the presence or addition of one or more other features, integers , steps, components or groups thereof.