Lorry beeps inventor receives top honour from road transport industry
10:15 12 October 2016
The founder of Brigade Electronics in South Darenth developed the life-saving ‘beep beep’ alarms in the 1970s
A South Darenth business founder who single-handedly pioneered reversing vehicle alarms in the 1970s has received a top industry award.
Chris Hanson-Abbott, 82, who established the leading vehicle safety firm Brigade Electronics based in Station Road, has been inducted into the Motor Transport’s Hall of Fame for his contribution to vehicle road safety. The inventor was also awarded an OBE for his services to vehicle road safety in The Queen’s 2014 Birthday Honours list.
Established in 1976 as a one-man start up, Mr Hanson-Abbott launched a one-man crusade to introduce the reversing alarms we all know and recognise on heavy goods vehicles today.
Hosted by Jonathan Ross, the honours were announced at an awards ceremony in London held by the Motor Transport magazine.
Mr Hanson-Abbott said: ““I am deeply honoured to have been elected an member of Motor Transport’s Hall of Fame.
“Brigade was founded to plug a massive oversight in vehicle safety systems, never before addressed. Put simply, we are in the business of saving lives. Nothing is more worthwhile and we continue to develop new products and ideas to carry on saving lives in the future.”
The inventor says he was inspired by a strange beeping sound he heard emanating from the rear of a small truck on a street in Tokyo in 1974/5- only to then face opposition from the Department for Transport, who said reversing alarms contravened with already existent legislation.
“The sound was the brainchild of an electronics engineer in Japan and I thought it was a fantastic idea.
“From there I thought I’d track down the inventor and told him I’d like to introduce reversing safety aids to Europe. I quit the shipping industry career I had been in for 20 years - which was quit nerve-wracking as I had large family and a large mortgage and was stepping into an industry I didn’t know.
“But I thought it was a wonderful idea and couldn’t be missed.”
It took a further two to three years after it was established before Brigade’s first alarm sale to a prestigious UK bus company, and many more years for health and safety culture to be fully addressed. Nowadays, vehicle safety systems are universally accepted as a necessity for plant and commercial vehicles.
South Darenth’s Brigade Electronics has since clocked up a series of innovations in vehicle safety systems, including the first rear view camera and 360 all-round vision systems.
The Brigade group now employs almost a hundred people worldwide and has enjoyed a turnover of £30 million in the last 12 months.
Although way past the retirement age, the grandfather from Greenwich still continues to work full-time Brigade.
“Before we introduced the alarms, there were nearly 3,000 fatalities every year. Deaths have reduced over four times since then, meaning we continue to do vital work for what is essentially a life saving business.”