During the last few years, the speed of development for safety systems installed in trucks has pretty much skyrocketed. So much so that nowadays this feature comes as a standard from most truck manufacturers. Furthermore, the administration has also made it compulsory to use electronic stability control systems.

Future versions of these systems are already under development and are expected to have functions like automatically staying within lane and monitoring driver’s tiredness. However, with all that, there are still some areas of concern, in particular, the system’s ability to communicate with the vehicle’s driver.

Fred Andersky, a senior official with Bendix, has also pointed out that the primary purpose of said systems is to share information with the driver. He said that these systems are meant to point out to the driver of things that are about to happen or may already be happening. This information is relayed through the Human Machine Interface (HMI) which can either be visual or audio based. While there are some basic guidelines available from SAE regarding how the information should be relayed, a lack of actual regulations from NHTSA means there are many variations. So like all other things with choices, some are good, and some are quite bad.

Andersky also believes quite strongly in need of regularization of the safety products and HMIs across all manufacturers. This is to ensure that no confusion is caused to the drivers, even if they are faced with the duty to change the vehicle they were driving and continue work in another truck with a different system installed in it.

According to the technology lead for human factors division at Volvo, Deborah Thompson was of the view that using augmented reality to project information on the truck’s windscreen for the driver can help in delivering information without causing the driver to lose focus from the road. She also talked about this feature currently being incorporated into the trucks being produced by the company.

Although there may still be some areas of improvement in these driver support systems, the number of success stories and related stats show real progress going on. Schneider reported a drop in severity of the accidents being caused by a whopping 95% and the rate of recurrence for all incidents had also dropped by 70% according to Dave Smith, an official working for Daimler.

He also said that 83% of all their fleets with 100+ trucks in them were opting for these smart systems for collision prevention. The number for fleets with fewer trucks was quite low though; a meagre 36%.

Smith identified this percentage gap between large and small fleets as the ability of larger fleets to get their own information. He also said that being a smaller fleet meant that the chance of facing such an unfortunate incident was also much lower automatically.

Fred Andersky also pointed out that these safety systems were the stepping stone for full-fledged automated driving systems that were to be introduced in the future. He said that the fusion of each system with the others is what will cause it. The braking system needs to work in congruence with the engine management module for adaptive cruise control to work. The integration of all such systems will be the steps leading to the overall transformation.

Over time, new features are expected to be introduced in this field. Peterbilt announced three new systems to be added to their vehicles in the coming years. To start off, their vehicles would have stop-and-go assistance in traffic, a lane-maintenance assistant during the current year, the ability to detect objects by the year 2020 and by 2021, the ability to monitor the condition of the drivers as well. This last feature will be implemented by using cameras that will continuously monitor the status and level of the driver’s attention and fatigue.

While all these systems may sound great, it must be kept in mind that the success of these prevention tools is highly subjective to the correct functioning of the mechanical systems that are at the base of these systems. Calibration of tools like camera and radars in the correct direction and tuning of the braking systems frequently to ensure their compliance with the needs of the system to achieve their target within the specified distance.

Keith McComsey, the director of wheel-end customer solutions and marketing at Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake points out that for the abovementioned collision prevention systems to work, the ultimate reliability comes down to the real components at work, i.e. the brakes and the tires. Having these two parts fully maintained and regularly inspected is directly linked to the proportionate success level of the systems responsible for automated slowing and stopping.

Mark Melletat, a senior executive at Wabco Americas expressed his agreement to the requirement of having such prevention systems in the vehicles and said that these systems require maintenance just like any other system of the vehicle such as the ABS. All that needs to be done to inspect these systems is to perform a test drive and ensure no fault codes get triggered by the system.

The most common of problems according to Andersky from Bendix occurs in the radar system which gets misaligned but fixing them is quite easy since the system itself mostly informs the driver of the changes that need to be done for recalibration.

For any fleet that opts to have these anti-collision systems installed, it is crucial to have all the drivers in the fleet oriented regarding the capabilities of the system and what it is capable of doing, and also what it is not able to do.

Buffy Wilkerson, addressing the common misconception that these systems are meant to replace the drivers, said that this is not the case at all. These systems are created to actually help the drivers and having proper orientation is very important to ensure successful deployment of systems in fleets. She pointed out the fact that with proper training, the rate of successful deployment was quite visible as compared to fleets where no training was given, and the drivers / technicians were forced to understand the systems of their own, leaving the chance for error and misunderstanding.

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