Representatives of Bendix and Meritor Wabco, the two major suppliers of safety devices that warn drivers of impending collisions, are glad to see renewed attention put on their products by recommendations issued this week by the National Transportation Safety Board. But they say they don’t necessarily want to see them mandated on trucks.
And they make a point of calling the products “collision mitigation” systems, because they cannot promise to eliminate accidents, only to reduce their severity. The NTSB used the term “collision avoidance” in its call Monday for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require such devices on new trucks and cars.
“It’s kind of nice to see all this conversation about this technology,” said Fred Andersky, director of government and industry affairs at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, in an interview with HDT. “There must be something there,” and fleet-customer experience shows that it’s positive.
“It’s not all that surprising,” he said of NTSB’s push. “A lot of collisions occur, and there are different types, including rollover and jackknifes. Collisions with stationary (or slow-moving) objects are a lot more serious than those from lack of roll stability control.”
Those benefits are driving industry adoption in absence of a mandate.
“Companies that are developing this type of product are not waiting for NHTSA to come out with a rule,” said Alan Korn, director of Advanced Brake Systems Integration for Meritor Wabco Vehicle Control Systems. “We’re responding to a demand” from safety-minded fleets.
Systems currently available provide warning of an impending collision. If the driver doesn't respond, some systems offer active braking “to take out some of the energy from the collision,” Andersky said. “Fleets wouldn’t be buying it if they didn’t see a return on investment from it.” The payback comes from reducing severity of crashes and avoiding some of them altogether.
All OEMs offer collision-mitigation systems, and they set the prices, he said. “I’ve seen list prices from $2,500 to $6,000, but there’s always adjustments on volume.” And selling prices are almost always less than list.
About 20% of Class 8 tractors are now sold with collision-mitigation devices, according to Korn at Meritor Wabco, and there's been more interest from operators of straight trucks.
How they work
These devices address collisions with something ahead of a truck in the same travel lane, also called a rear-end collision. Korn explained that a forward-looking system “will react to it and if it can’t avoid it, it will at least mitigate it” by reducing vehicle speed and therefore the violence of an impact.
Radar cuts through fog, rain and heavy snow to sense an object ahead, he and Andersky explained. Partly because of fast closing speeds, a stationary object up ahead is difficult for software in the controls to deal with. Adding a camera enhances its understanding of what the object is, and what to do about it.
Bendix offers a series of radar-based products called Wingman, with the latest being Wingman Fusion. This combines radar sensing with camera views of what’s ahead, and will apply service brakes if the driver doesn’t.
Meritor Wabco sells OnGuard radar products that start with Forward Collision Warning and advance to Active Braking and adaptive cruise control. The latest is OnGuardActive, which uses a longer-range radar antenna to provide advanced warning of slow-moving vehicles and other obstructions. Fleets using OnGuard report reductions of up to 87% involving rear-end accidents, the company says.
NTSB wants NHTSA to develop performance standards rather than specify technologies that could be used, Korn explained. NHTSA must respond to four petitions calling for adoption of the systems, and probably will by the end of the year.
There’s a good chance that NHTSA will respond affirmatively to the petitions because “the new NHTSA administrator, Dr. (Mark) Rosekind, comes from the NTSB,” he said. “He is 100% committed to safety.”