Safety & Compliance

Driving With the Wingman Collision Avoidance System

June 2010, - Feature

by Tom Berg, Senior Editor, Senior Contributing Editor - Also by this author

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Think of any rear-end accident you've ever seen or heard of, where a truck slams into a stopped or slower-moving vehicle. What was its cost in injuries, lives and property damage?
An arc of red lights along the top of the speedometer and an audible beeping alert the driver when something's too close up ahead. (Photo by Volvo)
An arc of red lights along the top of the speedometer and an audible beeping alert the driver when something's too close up ahead. (Photo by Volvo)
Chances are it was far, far more than the $2,100 or so that truck builders charge for optional active/adaptive cruise control - the type that modulates the throttle as required by traffic just ahead and applies brakes when a collision is likely. This technology could prevent many such wrecks and reduce the severity of others.

Most truck original equipment manufacturers offer this technology. International, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Mack and Volvo offer Bendix's Wingman. This piggybacks onto a truck or tractor's electronic anti-lock braking and anti-rollover systems. By federal regulation, ABS is standard, and anti-rollover is either optional or standard, depending on the OEM. Volvo and Mack road tractors are standard with Bendix Roll Stability Control, and the next step is the Wingman option.

Volvo calls it Volvo Enhanced Cruise, and I tried it out recently on a VNL tractor on North Carolina Interstates. A front-facing radar antenna sent microwaves into our travel lane to "see" traffic. A microprocessor took the return signals and judged whether we were closing on any objects up ahead.

It didn't save me from a wreck, because I was awake and alert enough to slow down when needed, but I got a good look at how it works. This trip near Greensboro, N.C., was led by Ed Saxman, Volvo's powertrain expert who was instructing me on the tractor's updated I-Shift automated mechanical transmission (a story for another time).

The Wingman system intervened several times when motorists cut in front of us, sounding a visual and audio alarm until they moved ahead. The visual alarm was an arc of red lights that lit up along the top of the speedometer, and the audible was a beep-beep-beeping that got my attention without annoying me.

Another time it applied the brakes. I had moved out of I-40's right lane to make room for traffic entering from a ramp. That put me on a collision course with a slow-moving pickup, whose driver was doing only about 55 to 60 in a 70-mph zone in the center lane. But Wingman saw the silver Chevy Silverado and braked us down to a matching speed while sounding and flashing the alarms. I waited for an opening in the right lane, swung back there, accelerated and went around him, and that was that.

Bendix Wingman will brake a truck almost to a halt if need be. I got to experience that a year earlier, during the Mid-America Trucking Show, in a Mack Vision tractor on I-65 and I-265 near the Kentucky fairgrounds. Adaptive Cruise Control, as Mack calls the system, slowed us to a near-stop on an off-ramp as we approached a Bendix-operated test car that purposely got in our way. Service brakes took us down to a crawling speed maintained by the engine as it idled through an Allison automatic transmission. To come to a full stop, I gently touched the brake pedal.

On this recent run in the Volvo, the I-Shift tranny changed its ratios to suit our cruising, slowing and speeding up as traffic and my foot's pressure on the accelerator dictated. Power would've cut off if I'd have pressed on the "gas" when something ahead was too close, which I didn't. But the dethrottling capability is there, along with the automatic braking function, to back up a driver who might be too tired or distracted to react appropriately to a situation.

Would Wingman or something like it have prevented that driver from rear-ending the car driven by a well-known congressman's wife on the Beltway outside Washington, D.C., a few months ago? Maybe. It happened in stop-and-go traffic when the truck's cruise control would probably have been switched off and its automatic braking deactivated. But the audio-visual alarms would've alerted the truck driver that he was about to hit the car, and he might've braked in time. If I ran the fleet that owned the truck, I'd be spec'ing active cruise control on my next order.

From the June 2010 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.


  1. 1. Deb Huddlestun [ August 21, 2013 @ 09:23PM ]

    You think this is so great why don't you try running team down I 35 from Dallas to Laredo and see how annoying it is and distracting not to mention that when the alarm goes off it wakes your co-driver up so no one is getting any rest.

  2. 2. Thomas burke [ December 05, 2013 @ 03:08PM ]

    the system needs to be refined. after a year of driving the VEC its faults are glaring. in heavy high speed traffic around the capital beltway in DC it goes off non stop if car see any daylight they cut you off.. and the gap opens wider and the VEC slows you down to the point were your truck is now a rolling hazard. it should
    only be activated when the cruize is on .

  3. 3. bill paulhamus [ January 24, 2014 @ 08:07PM ]

    try driving one of these thing in NYC it will drive you nuts its hours of being yelled at by you mother in law for hours and hours on end

  4. 4. RW [ June 18, 2014 @ 07:53AM ]

    Why are we so dead set on taking humanity out of Trucking? If you don't have the skill set to operate safely then you shouldn't be in the truck and they should stop trying to take measures to cover that. it's kind of like automatic transmissions and trying to make the dash and all be like a car. Especially Volvo. I'd love to fly a fighter jet but I don't see them taking steps to make it possible for me to just crawl in one and take off and I don't want them to.

  5. 5. RW [ June 18, 2014 @ 08:01AM ]

    I've been driving 27 years and have no accidents this thing is more of a distraction then it is a help.

  6. 6. Dan Dundon [ July 10, 2014 @ 06:12AM ]

    I am a freelance writer and am interested in hearing about truckers who have driven with this system. I want the good and the bad. Please e-mail me with your thoughts.

  7. 7. Seymour buttz [ April 25, 2015 @ 12:45PM ]

    Ive been driving with it for 11 days and traffic times of the day I have to park it stress makes the head pound nose bleed and ears throb........gonna have long term affEcts on the health of our drivers

  8. 8. myra bumgart [ May 03, 2015 @ 01:40PM ]

    Alarm noise is our (teams) only main complaint.....There is no way a co-driver can sleep with the alarm going off 24/7...and the only time you can drive without it going off is at 2 am in the desert because we cannot control other drivers actions and automobile drivers refuse to honour the space requirements that this program seems to believe we have in this perfect scenario world they think we operate in...and our shop director told some of our team coworkers that...he didn't give a damn how tired they got or if they ever got any sleep..that they were gonna have to just deal with it"..the near constant beeping is creating stressed out, hostile, road raging drivers....sounds to me that this problem is defeating the attempt to increase safe driving..

  9. 9. james waite [ August 17, 2015 @ 04:03PM ]

    The constant noisy chirping alarm is aggravating me into road rage. The system slams on the brakes at the most inconvenient time. When roads are icy and this system slams on the brakes the way it does there is going to be more deaths. All it does is cause more stress and fatigue on the drivers.

  10. 10. rob [ August 19, 2015 @ 05:38AM ]

    Anybody know how to turn the wingman system off there has to be a way. The constant chirping is to much.

  11. 11. Jon [ November 09, 2015 @ 11:47PM ]

    It is the most annoying distraction I have ever encountered. It wastes fuel slowing down to match the speed of slower moving cars. It beeps continually in heavy traffic and hits the breaks at what it thinks is a problem. By the end of the day it has created an extremely stressful experience.

    The brochure gives bs made up stories of how it saved the life of someone by alerting the driver or applying the breaks. It never talks about the poor guy behind you that nearly ass ends you because a stupid computer slammed on the breaks. It is a dangerous fuel consuming piece of junk that give stupid drivers a false sense of safety.

    I expect to see drivers over driving poor visibility conditions because they believe it alert them in time.

    News flash, as much as you would like to believe that you drive my truck better from your computer terminal with a flawed program that can't distinguish between normal and critical situations than i can from tje drivers seat it is not possible. This system will kill people.

    As a side note I did increase my fuel milage by .5 mpg from 6.6 to 7.1 when I disabled the adaptive cruise. I also decreased my stress level greatly. I do not recommend the wingman or the on guard systems and can't wait to get rid of this truck.

  12. 12. Jon [ November 09, 2015 @ 11:53PM ]

    Pull the fuse for the adaptive cruise. You will have a check light on and 2 error codes but its worth it. Standard cruise still works. It was fuse #67 in my truck. I drive a 2016 730 Volvo.

  13. 13. Bob [ December 29, 2015 @ 09:34AM ]

    I am a member of senior management at a trucking company in NC. Before my career in management I drove trucks for over 25 years. I can relate to all the concerns above because I used to have the same views. I would like to ask each of you to put yourself in the shoes of an owner of a trucking company with 100 plus trucks. It becomes real clear when one of your trucks slams into a sitting car on the highway and turns its passengers into a corps or a vegetable. When you have gone as far as putting cameras in the truck and providing positive coaching to your drivers to only have them thumb their nose at you like you are being a pain in their ass when you can clearly see there actions are going to cost you one day. Cell phones and texting are a big issue right now. We have terminated repeat offenders and heard later about the big crash.Those of us on this end of the trucking world feel that if this thing can save one life and that driver gets to go home to his family then it is worth it. I am sorry you are inconvenienced and you feel you are professional enough that this can't happen to you. But in reality traffic has increased over the last ten years but the requirement to obtain a drivers license hasn't.
    Now lets talk about the fall out of that fatality you just created because you took your eyes off the road for 3 seconds to read that text message. Yes truck drivers do it too. Insurance cost, The cost of the lawyers to defend you in the lawsuit, The settlement which can be millions. In most cases the trucking company goes bankrupt and puts many people out of a job. You of course get to move to the next trucking company and tell the story for years to come.
    We need to take the unsafe drivers off the road but at the same time we need to keep the good rolling across this country. Trust me it is a balancing act on our part. Before you bring money into it trust me whe

  14. 14. John [ March 15, 2016 @ 05:24PM ]

    Just got a '16 Volvo 780 w/this system on it. I don't necessarily mind the alerts on the dash and blind spot but there has to be a volume adjustment for this system, right?!? I couldn't find one but this chirping is driving me nuts!!!

  15. 15. Jim [ May 07, 2016 @ 10:20AM ]

    Belive me i all for safety. But when in heavy traffic this constnt beeping is plain annoying. At least tone it down some. Another concern i have what happens on icy roads when this thing decides to hit the air? Thats right a skid..

  16. 16. tony green [ May 16, 2016 @ 09:00AM ]

    Tried to run team with junk.Impossible too do with all the noise. This system is going to kill someone.It keeps the go driver awake and from getting rest.It is totally unsafe for team drivers.Someone needs to bring this to the attention of the dot Eight hours of uninterrupted rest.This system is cleary a violation of this and should be vanned from team usage. I had to quit team driving after 3 days of this system because nether one of us could get any sleep at all....Again this system is totally unsafe for team usage and Is going to kill someone.

  17. 17. mr jones [ May 26, 2016 @ 02:36AM ]

    This system doesn't work because not all vehicles have it to work. Right now, the noise is a nuisance and the automatic braking for speed limit on off ramps when I'm the freeway is definitely putting me at risk. Its a robot that doesn't see the overall picture. A semi or 4 wheeler is going to rear end me. I've never been in an accident in the ten years I've been driving.

  18. 18. Harmon Greenrock [ October 13, 2017 @ 07:28PM ]

    I just bought a 2013 587 with this crap on it I was wondering if it could be disabled or turned off or deleted the dealership wont tell you anything

  19. 19. James Pagh [ October 14, 2017 @ 06:23PM ]

    have this on a 14 kenworth t680 i got used terrible system noisy distracting worthless for a team application and should be a safety violation in its own right for any attempt at a legal 8 hour rest period. this is a tool to cover the companies butt not help the driver ,where can i get this garbage removed?

  20. 20. Terry [ October 20, 2017 @ 08:24AM ]

    I have been driving OTR
    22 years.
    I drive a 13 International Prostar with this on it and love it.
    In my opinion it is a real asset.
    The people on here basically complaining about using the system on ice and snow all I can say is I am not sure why anyone would drive with cruise control on in adverse conditions anyway.
    I do agree it could be something to get used to in a team application but then again I hear that argument about hauling a reefer and it has never been a problem for me.

  21. 21. Maurice [ November 09, 2017 @ 02:42PM ]

    This is product that sucks and the next time my wife gets thrown from bunk i will be suing this company manufacturing it

  22. 22. Gary [ February 04, 2018 @ 10:59AM ]

    I recently purchased a new Volvo 730 with the Wingman system and it is one of the most annoying and distracting components I’ve ever seen. In heavy traffic it never shuts up. I can’t control other vehicles and when I slow to allow a safe distance to silence the irritating alarm some jackass jumps in the space and I’m constantly having to slow again. It’s a repeated process! I’m considering suing Bendix and Volvo to have the system retrofitted with a switch to silence the alarm in heavy traffic or in the event of a malfunction just being able to manually override the system and turn it off.

  23. 23. Mike [ February 06, 2018 @ 06:53PM ]

    I have the Bendix Wingman Fusion, what a pain in the ass system, my company tells me it's a tool!! Ok I'm fine with that it is a good tool but then I have to call safety and they jump my ass because some dumn ass 4 wheeler cuts me of and I don't hit the brakes hard enough, oh wait then you can get me for a hard break. It's a no win situation and I'm afraid it's not going to change, I've been driving trucks for 41 years and in those years I've only had 2 yes 2 accidents, but only one was my fault and that was in 81 and now I'm catching hell for this pos equipment.


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