How We Got Here

Let’s take a quick look in the rearview mirror, technologically speaking.

Antilock braking systems (ABS) changed braking from a fully mechanical to an electronic function. Based on input from wheel speed sensors, an ABS’ electronic control unit – the ECU – determines if a course of action is needed to mitigate a skid situation, then engages the modulators to release and cycle brake applications as necessary. This revolutionized heavy vehicle braking and has been mandated for more than two decades. ABS also provided the foundation for the next big step forward – electronic stability control.

Also known as full stability or ESC, electronic stability control added additional steer angle, yaw rate, and lateral acceleration sensors to the braking system. Along with more computing power in the ECU, these sensors made possible systems that help drivers mitigate rollovers and loss-of-control situations, even on wet or snow- and ice-covered roads. Bendix introduced its system – Bendix® ESP® Electronic Stability Program full-stability system – in 2004, and beginning in 2017, ESC was mandated for U.S. commercial vehicles and motorcoaches.

Next came the addition of a front radar sensor, making possible advances into adaptive cruise control and active collision mitigation braking. These systems continued to evolve and improve as well, offering more effective interventions and increased capabilities. Adding forward-facing cameras to provide the system with even more input made ADAS more powerful and safety-enhancing.

All these effective and road-proven technologies were built with some control over a vehicle’s forward motion – longitudinal control – through throttle, engine retarder, and braking intervention, while always supporting the driver as he or she is ultimately responsible for its safe operation. And now the industry is taking the next steps beyond.

Turning the Next Corner

Further enhancing the capability of steering gears through electronically controlled torque overlay systems is a crucial element in the future of driver assistance and highly automated driving solutions that build on top of the known, reliable steering gears in today’s market. We’re seeing this in passenger cars in the form of options that help the driver maintain existing lanes and improve maneuverability in tricky parking situations – options that are also making their way into the trucking world.

Pairing electronically controlled torque overlay steering gears with the ADAS systems that already interface with the vehicle stability system helps make latitudinal (side-to-side) interventions possible. And this path continues to lead toward the support of increased driver assist and autonomous applications to further assist drivers in a variety of situations on the roadway.

Driver benefits from these systems include increased safety and driver comfort through features like lane keep assist, speed-dependent steering assist, active return, and road disturbance suppression that helps reduce steering wheel jostling from potholes or bumps in the road without compromising the steering feel.

Other current benefits include compensation for side winds and road crown, and customizability to fit a driver’s desired steering preference. Looking ahead to the road toward autonomy, advanced iterations of the system can assist with self-parking, loading-dock assist, and even providing automated driving.

Several of these technologies are already equipped on production trucks, and the difference they make in the driver’s seat is nothing short of incredible. If you get a chance to ride in (or better yet, drive) a Class 8 tractor that’s on the leading edge with these systems, you’ll see it’s an impactful experience that really brings these advantages to light.

It’s important to stress that all these applications are designed to help drivers by helping to increase safety and comfort. Advanced safety technologies from antilock brakes on up are designed to complement, not replace, safe driving practices. Drivers must exercise safe driving techniques and are ultimately responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle. And those at the wheel of tomorrow’s trucks will continue to require the support of proactive, ongoing driver training to ensure safe vehicle operation.

Trucking Together – Globally

While we’re focused on the North American market, the growing interconnectivity of commercial vehicle enterprises is significant in shaping things in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Vehicle and component manufacturers alike continue to look for ways to take advantage of their global partnerships in research and development, engineering, road testing, and more.


TJ Thomas, Director – Marketing and Customer Solutions, Controls Group, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC.
A 22-year Bendix team member, Thomas blends dynamic strategies with effective implementation. He is responsible to help drive the continued expansion of the company’s evolving menu of safety technologies, with a focus on building strong customer relationships.

About Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC

Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, a member of Knorr-Bremse, develops and supplies leading-edge active safety technologies, energy management solutions, and air brake charging and control systems and components under the Bendix® brand name for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, tractors, trailers, buses, and other commercial vehicles throughout North America. An industry pioneer, employing more than 4,100 people, Bendix – and its wholly owned subsidiary, R.H. Sheppard Co. Inc. – is driven to deliver solutions for improved vehicle safety, performance, and overall operating cost. Contact us at 1-800-AIR-BRAKE (1-800-247-2725) or visit bendix.com. Stay connected and informed through Bendix expert podcasts, blog posts, videos, and other resources at knowledge-dock.com. Follow Bendix on Twitter at twitter.com/Bendix_CVS. Log on and learn from the Bendix experts at brake-school.com. And to learn more about career opportunities at Bendix, visit bendix.com/careers.

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