Backup Sonar Sensors vs. Backup Cameras

truck backup camera vs sonar backup system

by Adam Maxfield


TPC Vehicle Safety
manufactures both safety backup cameras and safety ultrasonic backup sensors.  We are commonly asked, "Which solution is the best?" or "Why would I buy a sensor solution when I can see with a camera?" 

The answer really depends on the application, so this backup camera buying guide will answer some of your questions.

Quality Matters

Before diving into the details of the two technologies, we should first discuss the value of quality.  In the last 10 years, the world's technology has greatly changed. Today all technology is susceptible to cheap copies.  As you would expect, these cheap copies only last a short time. Who else has bought a cheap flashlight only to find themselves in the dark a few hours later? 

The old phrase, "If it seems too good to be true then it probably is" is still as valid today as it was when it was coinedI It is easy to find both sonar systems and backup cameras on the internet for a fraction of the price of a well-known quality manufacturer

For example, it is possible to buy a backup camera and monitor on Amazon.com for less than $40, while quality manufacturers offer products for around $500.00.  Quality manufacturers design cameras and sonar systems to last as long as the vehicle they are installed on.

Key Differences Between Sonar and Video

There are a few key differences between backup cameras and backup sonar systems.  In most cases, we recommend a combination of both solutions.  


Visual Confirmation

Ultrasonic sensors can identify every bump in the road or child in the vehicle's path, but only a backup camera will allow the driver to see if the bump is a fire hydrant or if the child is wearing a red or blue shirt.  Without a backup camera, a driver can not identify what the dangers are without stopping the vehicle and leaving the cabin to inspect the path.  


Proactive Alert

True multitasking is only possible with assistance.  This is true from the microwave to vehicle brake lights.  If every time you decided to slow down you had to pull multiple levers it would be very difficult; one lever for the brakes, one lever for the left brake light and one of the right brake light. 

This sounds crazy, but 48% of people do not use a turn signal when changing lanes.  This is why a proactive alert system is extremely important when talking about backup safety.  Sonar sensors alert the driver with audible and visual notifications. Ultrasonic sonar systems notify the driver the distance so without looking the driver knows something is in the path. 

The audio alert varies by manufacturer. Some manufacturers increase the volume as the obstacle gets closer and others increase the frequency of the alert. Along with the audio is a visual alert that shows the driver the distance (in feet) to the obstacle.  Video does not alert the driver to obstacles, so if the driver is watching a spotter or one of the 5 mirrors on the vehicle an accident will happen.


Snow blocks backup camera

Weather affects technology and visual equipment in different ways.  High-quality sonar systems are not affected by rain, snow, and fog, however, cameras are many times disabled by all types of precipitation.  Snow can block the camera view or falling snow can make it difficult to see in low light.  A sonar sensor is the only reliable solution when rain, snow, and fog are present.



Ultrasonic Sonar System

Industrial Backup Camera

Combined Ultrasonic Sonar and Backup Camera

Wireless Option

X

X

Visual Notification

X

X

Audio Notification

X

X

Easily Installed

X

X

X

Insurance Reduction

X

X

X

Large Monitor

X

X

Designed for Service Trucks

X

X

X

Designed for Delivery Trucks

X

X

X

Designed for Semi-Trucks

X

X

X

Designed for OTR Trucks

X

X

X

Designed for Tractors

X

X

X

Waterproof

X

X

X

<2 Hour Install Time

X

X

X

Warranty

X

X

X

Proactive Alerts

X

X

Color Display

X

X



Final Thoughts: Should I buy a Sonar System or a Backup Camera?

The answer is simple: Both!  You should buy both solutions if you want safety to reverse your truck, as this is the only way to truly reduce accidents. 

With sonar, you will not know if it’s a bush or a child that is obstructing your path. With a camera, you may not see the child in your path because you looked at a side mirror at the wrong time.  Again, only a combined system can stop preventable accidents.

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