There is never any shortage of interesting news, speculation, and trendspotting at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hanover, Germany – and this year’s exhibition was no different.
Although Bendix has long been a North American-based company, as a member of the Knorr-Bremse Group, we’re also a part of the immense global commercial vehicle industry with a common interest in improving driver, passenger, and highway safety. So while our home base is here in Elyria, Ohio, our efforts and industry ties span the globe – meaning we leave no avenue unexplored. And with the goal of putting our expanding knowledge base to work in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, I’d like to offer some specific takeaways on four key themes we saw emphasized at IAA, and what they mean for North America’s trucking fleets and truck drivers.
Not a surprise here, really: Safety drives everything we do at Bendix, and that’s not uncommon no matter where you’re driving. Improved wheel-end safety technologies and components were front and center at IAA. For example, Knorr-Bremse announced a new two-piston disc brake – SYNACT® – designed to handle the higher steer-axle loads and torque that European trucks tend to face due to the prominence of cab-over-engine designs. The group also unveiled NEXTT®, another lighter-duty, single-piston disc brake, and a Global Scalable Brake Control (GSBC) system.
Now, those are initially aimed for the European market – but the engineering development and advancements that made them possible are likely to find their way to North America.
Since linehaul applications are primarily comprised of dry van trailers in North America, great opportunities exist to provide air disc brake options further optimized for cost and weight. Linehaul applications, in particular, will see the benefit of significant weight savings via increased payload as well as improved fuel efficiency. In addition, some coming technologies – like active caliper release – will help to boost fuel savings even further.
The GSBC system serves as a platform for the many driver assistance systems of the future – an arena in which Bendix is proud to be on the leading edge – so there’s obviously great potential for improved efficiencies and technological enhancement there, too. Full stability is already a de facto industry standard, and it provides the foundation for more advanced driver assistance systems, including increasingly popular collision mitigation systems. GSBC technology strengthens those and paves the way for even safer vehicles.
The days of a truck and its driver being truly alone out on the road are long gone: Vehicles stay in touch with fleet offices via wirelessly transmitted data that provides real-time insight, enabling remote diagnostics and more efficient predictive maintenance.
We saw a lot of interest at IAA in these quests for improved uptime, where connectivity will play a huge part. It’s not hard to see a time when a vehicle can diagnose a problem – a brake needing to be relined in the next 5,000 miles, for example – communicate that issue to the fleet, and automatically have a part ordered and repairs scheduled during the driver’s next planned stop a couple days or weeks down the road.
Connectivity is also increasingly important to the safe operation of more advanced safety systems, since they require knowing in real time the “health” of the vehicle and braking system, and whether the system is capable of going into a highly automated driving mode or not.
Emissions Reduction/Electric Mobility
There’s already a significant push toward greater commercial vehicle electrification in Europe, partly because in many places, the infrastructure is already in place for things like overhead wires that could power vehicles, and partly because of more stringent greenhouse gas emissions regulation.
In North America, electrification has more of a niche appeal. But there are maintenance benefits along with environmental benefits in larger cities, and in certain applications, electric vehicles could make sense: final-mile deliveries in cities, for example, or a fleet with a hub-and-spoke operation that’s contained within 200 or 300 miles. Either could be a candidate for fully electric trucks, since they’re not the sort of high-weight hauls that make more sense for traditional diesel vehicles.
Electrification can also affect braking systems by extending their duty cycle, since light brake applications are handled through the motor regeneration process, which reduces brake pad wear. Where a linehaul vehicle today might require a brake job every 500,000 to 800,000 miles, brake pads on an electrified vehicle may last significantly longer – maybe not even needing replacement during a vehicle’s life.
There are a couple key things to understand about electrification, though: First is that even with those regenerative brakes we mentioned above, vehicles will still need big traditional brakes to provide emergency braking power, which is beyond regenerative brakes’ capacity. Second is that air systems will remain a braking system staple for the future, on both tractors and trailers, for two reasons: 1. The infrastructure is required to handle trailers, and 2. The cost and challenge of building a fail-safe system using only electrical power. To put this in perspective, if you have a small leak on a pneumatic system, it’s still fine and functions. But in an electrical system, even a small “gap” in the power supply, like a corroded terminal, can result in a loss of braking ability. Pneumatics are much more failure-tolerant, especially when you’re talking about towing vehicles.
Highly Automated Driving
When we talk about automation, we never stop stressing that even as more advanced technologies are demonstrated at events like IAA, it remains a process of migrating these systems over time from Level One or Level Two automation to levels Three, Four, and Five. We’ll see situational autonomous vehicles long before full automation. At IAA, Knorr-Bremse demonstrated a vehicle that combined an Autonomous-Yard-Maneuvering solution (2016 IAA). A Highway Pilot system (2018 IAA) was shown providing the basis for automated highway driving with evasive and overtaking maneuvers on multi-lane roads, as well as showed the deep system integration and coordination, for instance, when the trucks selectively braked individual wheels to steer around an obstacle (steer by braking) – even after the vehicle’s steering had “failed.”
A great deal is changing on the horizon, but at the same time, we have solutions in all these areas, and we can support where the industry is going. Active solutions, next-generation braking, redundancies for automation – we have all of those in our pipeline, along with technologies that are already being tested and proven with our customers.
And in 2019 at the next North American Commercial Vehicle show (NACV), and in 2020 at the next IAA Commercial Vehicles show, we’ll be there, looking again to share ideas and knowledge for shaping tomorrow’s transportation together with our partners from around the world.
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