It’s always a good day when we get to spend time talking with Mark Willis and the team at “Road Dog Trucking” and their SiriusXM audience. Recently, Dan Ronan hosted myself and Andy Pilkington, our driver assistance systems product manager for Bendix, for a great hour of chatting about advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and the pathway to highly automated and autonomous commercial vehicles. Because it’s such an important and timely topic with a lot of continued interest across our industry, we thought we’d share a bit of what we discussed here on the Knowledge Dock®.
To understand where things stand now, here’s a refresher on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) defined levels of automation. These levels are based on the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) J3016 “Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to On-Road Motor Vehicle Automated Driving Systems.”
• Level 0 = Human driver does everything.
• Level 1 = Automated system can sometimes assist human driver and conduct some parts of driving task.
• Level 2= Automated system can actually conduct some parts of the driving task, while human monitors environment; human driver must take back control when system requests.
• Level 3 = Automated system conducts some part of driving task AND monitors environment in some instances; human driver must take back control when system requests.
• Level 4 = Automated system can conduct the driving task AND monitor environment; human driver need not take back control; system can only operate in certain environments and under certain conditions.
• Level 5 = Automated system can perform all driving tasks, under all conditions that human driver can perform them.
To give that chart some real-world relevance, Bendix has been offering Level 1 systems for more than a decade in our family of Bendix® Wingman® collision mitigation technologies. The driver assistance at this level is generally in the form of alerts and, if necessary, braking interventions that can help mitigate forward collisions or reduce the severity of collisions that do occur.
When we launched Wingman, a lot of industry people were understandably cautious – but once people started using it, the safety benefits became obvious and drivers began embracing it. We heard things like, “It may not act 100% the way I’d drive, but it’s nice to have an extra set of eyes in case I have a bad day, or traffic changes in a way I couldn’t anticipate.” And the acceptance rate has continued to climb with these systems because they’re effective and fleet management is embracing them.
When we work with fleets that use collision mitigation systems, they generally report what we’ve termed “70/70” results – meaning that their data indicates the technology has helped reduce the number of rear-end accidents by approximately 70%, and then helped to reduce the severity of the remaining rear-end collisions by an additional 70%. There’s a big difference between a collision at 40 mph and one at 15 mph. And that’s attributable to both the system alerts – which give drivers that extra time to react – and the systems’ automatic braking capability in situations that develop more quickly than humans can respond.
The Next Level
At Bendix, Level 2 automation is right around the corner – and it means adding steering assistance to the equation. In fact, steering integration is one of the benefits our customers can expect from our recently completed acquisition of R.H. Sheppard. The integration of steering and braking is one of the biggest next steps in advancing driver assistance systems (ADAS)/highly automated driving (HAD) and enhancing safety. For example, next-generation Wingman Fusion’s Lane Keeping will integrate the forward-facing camera and torque overlay steering to help keep a vehicle along a projected path of travel. Drivers will still need to have their hands on the wheel, but the system will reduce driver fatigue associated with micro-adjustments needed during normal driving activity.
Highway Assist will engage when Fusion’s active cruise control with braking is set: The vehicle will not only maintain a distance with the forward vehicle – increasing safety – but will also track to near center, automatically, and assist the truck and trailer to stay within the intended lane. Building on Highway Assist, Traffic Jam Assist further helps the driver when traffic becomes heavy, as the system will help the driver steer and brake at low speeds when backed-up traffic causes slowdowns.
As technologies like this reach the market, we’re likely to see more industry standardization of Level 2 systems.
Electronic Braking Systems
Part of this pathway to safer, more highly automated trucks involves the integration of Electronic Braking Systems (EBS). EBS is a type of braking technology that allows functions in the brake system to be electronically controlled, as opposed to ABS (antilock braking systems), where that control signal is pneumatic. EBS has been in use in Europe for two decades, making it an established and road-tested safety technology.
More precise controls enable EBS to deliver new brake system features, including smoother braking, and improved brake balance and feel across different load conditions. It also allows automated driver-assist features to activate braking more frequently than current ABS systems. More precise control during every brake application – even at the individual axle and wheel-end levels – means the benefits of EBS are realized during automated braking interventions of advanced driver assistance systems.
Drivers Remain Crucial
Even at Level 2, the driver is driving, even if their feet are (temporarily) off the pedals and they’re not actively steering. It’s critical to keep in mind that all safety technologies complement safe driving practices. No commercial vehicle safety technology replaces a skilled, alert driver exercising safe driving techniques and proactive, comprehensive driver training. The driver – not the system – is still responsible for safe operation of the vehicle at all times.
Our “Road Dog Trucking” host mentioned that he regularly hears from truck drivers worried that these technologies will put driverless trucks on the road within three to five years – but that’s just not happening. These are driver assistance systems – not driver replacement systems.
Drivers are also key to the development of the systems: We know that as the systems have evolved, we’ve improved them in part based on driver feedback about performance and capabilities. We’ve all heard the jokes about the old “bridge detection systems” in the early days of forward radar tech – and the truth is, we took them seriously. Now, with better sensors and improved computing, false alerts and interventions have been minimized, and we’ll keep sharpening the systems to support safer vehicles for the men and women behind the wheel across North America.
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