On a recent visit to Ann Arbor, Mich., at the invitation of ArvinMeritor and Meritor-Wabco, I had a first-hand chance to see that company's collision avoidance technology in action.
The OnGuard Collision Safety System is a forward-looking, radar-based system that detects objects in the truck's path and automatically engages the engine retarder and/or applies the brakes when it senses an impending collision.
The national Highway Traffic Safety Administration has concluded that something in the order of 90 percent of all rear-end collisions could be prevented or greatly mitigated had truck drivers applied brakes just one second sooner. By reacting to changes in following distance, OnGuard and similar systems provide drivers that extra margin of reaction time.
As a driver who logged about 2 million miles between 1978 and 1998, I first bristled at the suggestion of such technology. The last thing I would want is a truck that breaks itself when I don't want it to. On the other hand, I'm willing to acknowledge that there are times when I had wished the truck could have stopped sooner than it did. I had only one rear-end collision in those 18 years, and I was deemed not-at-fault, but still, the driver who cut in front of me and hit his brakes leaving me no room to stop might have driven away had my brakes applied sooner.
As this video demo illustrates, the OnGuard system can brake the truck in a hurry when the need arises, or just apply a gentle bit of retarding power if the threat isn't imminent. Truck driver, Bill Schlak, and his partner, Todd Swales in the target car have obviously rehearsed this routine a few times. I don't think Todd was in any danger, and Bill certainly has confidence in the technology -- or maybe Todd is the one with all the confidence.
Bill explains how the system works as we run through a couple of quick stop exercises.