We’ve frequently used this blog space to discuss the importance of driver assistance systems (DAS) and, from a Bendix perspective, the pathway to automated and autonomous vehicles through advancing driver assistance technologies. Just as ABS is the foundation for a lot of great braking system improvements, such as stability control, DAS technologies are the building blocks for the next generation – the future. All the current hype in the market around driverless vehicles doesn’t change this fact.
But there are other technologies available today – elements that will also play a key role in the growth and advancement of automated and autonomous commercial vehicles. These technologies help ensure that future automated approaches are able to deliver on the promises intended. And just as with DAS, they are also critical and need to be kept in mind, because failure in one of these technologies will impact the performance of the higher-level technologies.
Six Foundations for the Future
In a way, this blog post ties to the importance of maintenance and the “hierarchy of maintenance” we’ve discussed in the past. You might recall the basic premise from the blog post entitled “Maintaining Driver Assistance Systems: Why Covering the Basics Takes Care of the Advanced Technologies” is that taking care of the lower-level systems – such as tires and brakes – helps to ensure the performance of the higher-level systems, such as stability and collision mitigation technology. Some of these foundations do just that – they are needed to help ensure that the higher-level systems are able to perform optimally. Without them, there are going to be problems.
Along with advanced driver assistance systems, other technologies important in delivering the future include: full-stability (ESP/ESC) technology, integrated collision mitigation technology, air disc brakes, oil coalescing air dryer cartridges and intelligent air dryer technology, wear-sensing technologies, and advanced trailer technologies – from air disc brakes and trailer roll stability on the trailer to improved connectivity between trailer and tractor.
Let’s talk a little more about each of these areas:
- ESP/ESC Stability technology – Stability, from my perspective, is the critical functional braking technology for the future.Two reasons support this statement:
- First, the braking strategy of stability provides a fundamental approach to automated and autonomous vehicle braking: you need to be able to control the brakes on the tractor and the trailer – steer, drives, and trailer. Full stability does this.More importantly, however, is how you control the brakes on the tractor. By varying the pressure on each wheel-end, the system is able to help drivers – whether real or automated – to reduce the impact of the forces that can lead to rollovers and loss-of-control situations.
This doesn’t mean that the brakes won’t change in the future. They will. Brake control systems will evolve, but the basics of stability control will continue to be foundational to help ensure dynamic vehicle control during various events.
- The other reason? Even automated and autonomous vehicles travel on slick surfaces and will need the value of stability to help maintain control in these situations.
- Integrated Collision Mitigation technology – This one almost goes without saying, since, in the basic scheme of things, that’s what automated and autonomous vehicles are really trying to do – get you to your destination by avoiding collisions. But it’s not just about collision mitigation technology – it’s about integrated collision mitigation technology. Integration helps optimize the performance of a forward collision mitigation system by providing more information into the system – and by being able to cross-check information from different sources. Here’s a basic fact: autonomous or driverless vehicles have to minimize their susceptibility to false interventions, and the integration of sensor technologies – such as cameras, radar, ultrasonic, and other sensors – helps reduce these false positives. We see it already in the performance of Fusion™-type systems (camera and radar working together) delivering typically fewer false alerts than single sensor systems.
When talking driverless commercial vehicles (again, far, far into the future), this integration is critical. Why? Because there will be not be a driver available to take over, and a false intervention in the middle of a freeway could have catastrophic results. (Heck, the way some automakers are talking, there won’t be controls to help a driver take over, anyway!)
And, of course, forward facing is only one type of collision. Integrating sensors on the rear and sides of the tractor and trailer will enable collision mitigation technologies to do even more to help in more situations – from side-swipe and backing crashes, to pedestrian, animal, and object collisions.
- Oil Coalescing Air Filter Cartridges and Smart Air Dryers – Air sustains us – without clean, available air, we cease to exist. Dramatic, yes, but this same perspective is true for an air-braked truck. Oil, moisture, and other contaminants in brake system air can gum up the works - and “gumming up the works” for truck brakes is never a good thing. However, today the air generated for the braking system is safely used for more than just the brakes; other components, such as automated manual transmissions and emission systems use system air to facilitate their operation. As you can well imagine, contaminated air is not an option. That’s why more and more OEMs are including oil coalescing air dryer cartridges (such as Bendix® PuraGuard®) as standard equipment on their new vehicles.
Intelligent air dryers also become important for the future. Ensuring that the air system is performing optimally, especially with more advanced automated and autonomous systems in the future, is critical. An intelligent – or computer-equipped – air dryer helps alert the system to potential issues that may impact the performance of the system or the quality of air in the system. The last thing you want is a critical system malfunction at a critical time – resulting in, at best, a shutdown and, at worse, a crash. Making the air dryer smart and integrated as part of the system helps to avoid this issue.
- Along the same lines, Wear Sensors will become more important in the automated and autonomous future. Not surprisingly, the need for the system to better understand when an issue that might impact performance will occur is extremely important for the future. A number of OEMs already enable prognostic information proactivelycommunicated from traveling truck to repair center telematically. The data transmission can help diagnose what’s happening on the road and either enable an over-the-air programming update, or prepare the garage for a quick service to fix the problem and get that vehicle back on the road. More of these technologies will be important in the future – especially around mission-critical components, such as brake linings, tire wear, tire pressure, sensor performance, etc.
- Air Disc Brakes – when it comes to stopping power, there is probably no better wheel-end system available today than air disc brakes. In FMVSS 121 testing, air disc brakes consistently deliver shorter stopping distances than traditional drum brakes. This becomes very important when, for example in platooning applications, trucks are separated by relative short distances – such as about 40 ft. – while traveling at highway speeds. Also, the consistency of performance from side-to-side, along with the lack of fade and long-term durability of wear components such as pads and rotors, helps ensure that when the system needs braking, the brakes will deliver.
- And finally, Trailers – Yes, the oft-neglected trailer takes on significant importance in the future. Today the trailer is the cargo carrier. Tomorrow, it’s not only the cargo carrier, but an integral component of the combination – able to supply additional braking power and information to the system to help deliver a complete team approach to automated and autonomous functions. So what changes for trailers tomorrow? Here are a few thoughts…
- First, the brakes on the wheel-ends will need to be air disc brakes. Why? Same reasons noted earlier – consistent performance and maximum stopping power.
- Second, trailer stability. While tractor stability technology provides the bulk of stability power in a tractor-trailer combination, optimum performance is achieved when stability control is on both the tractor and the trailer. Plus, the system ensures ABS availability for optimum performance and trailer control in panic stops. (Yes, old trailers without ABS will not be invited to the future!)
- Third, and probably most important, is connectivity. Better connectivity between the trailer and the tractor will be critical. PLC (Power Line Connector), while useful today, is not the system connector for the future. The future requires true, clean, and clear network connectivity. The trailer system needs to be integrated with the tractor system to help ensure the trailer is ready to perform when needed – supplying information to the tractor regarding vehicles and other obstacles around and behind it, and ensuring that maximum stopping power can be applied when needed.Beyond “unit” connectivity of tractor and trailer, connectivity with the external environment – the other connected vehicles and infrastructure in the surrounding environment – will also be crucial. Because trailers can vary, information about a particular trailer will be important to ensure other vehicles know the length of that single trailer or trailer combination. And this will have to happen automatically. Otherwise, a V2V system on another vehicle may not realize the tractor has a trailer connected to it. This lack of information could result in a collision.
Just like a great production is not the work of only a few stars, but the result of a number of contributors, from co-stars, to set designers, to lighting technicians, and musicians, so true is the increasingly automated vehicle – a product of not only star technologies, but supporting technologies in the background. From my perspective, it’s good to know that as the technology advances, reliable, trusted approaches available today will also evolve to provide the support needed to get us further down the road to autonomy.
If the foundations for the future are available today, what are you doing with your fleet to be ready?
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