The march toward autonomous cars and trucks continues unabated. But for all the splashy headlines of a dynamic, robot-operated future world, the road to safe, reliable and productive autonomous vehicle technology will happen on a step-by-step basis, with various technological advancements acting as building blocks that integrate and boost existing technologies while paving the way for even more capable advancements. That, is the roadmap for future technology according to Fred Andersky, director of customer solutions for Bendix. And equally important as any “stepping stone” technologies are what Andersky calls “foundational technologies” – advances that fundamentally alter how vehicle systems perform and serve as a basis that enables more advanced, complimentary systems to come onboard as they evolve.
“Anti-lock braking systems are a prime example of a foundational technology,” Andersky said during a Bendix web press conference held on September 5, 2018, to announce a host of new driver assistance technologies and products. “When ABS first appeared in the 1990s, for the first time it gave commercial vehicle brake systems ‘brains’ and ‘sight,’ thanks to sensors that collected data and electronic control systems that analyzed that information and initiated brake engagements and releases based on it. And today, ABS serves as the foundational technology that enables a whole host of driver aid technologies such as advanced cruise control, collision mitigation systems like Bendix’s Wingman Fusion system and emerging technologies like active steering assistance systems.”
Now, according to Rebecca Carter, product manager, specialty valves, Bendix, the company is set to introduce a new foundational technology for commercial vehicles that she said will profoundly boost safety while serving as an integration enabler for a whole host of new driver assistance technologies.
Bendix Intellipark is a new electronic parking brake system that brings the familiar, Old School, red- and yellow- air brake control technology into the modern age. It is essentially a “smart” park brake system for electric vehicles that can provide a host of safety functions, including preventing rollaway and runaway crashes by automatically setting the brakes if the driver exits the vehicle while it is not parked. Beyond rollaway mitigation, the system uses information available on the vehicle network to allow the park brake to be released only when an authorized driver is in full control of the vehicle. Intellipark also delivers features such as Trailer Auto-Park Release, which can automatically release trailer brakes when the vehicle is moving.
Carter said that Intellipark features an improved, driver-friendly interface that eases the effort of setting the parking brake, replacing the red and yellow push/pull knobs with switches that can be flipped on and off with even a single finger. The switches display the familiar red and yellow symbols, and they activate the parking brake through less physical effort on the driver’s part – without delivering that popping “sting” of air switches when they’re pulled. This enhanced ergonomic design may also help decrease driver fatigue and prevent repetitive motion injuries. And the easy-to-read interface, which includes LED lights, helps the driver understand the status of the parking brakes on both the tractor and the trailer – prior to leaving the vehicle or heading out on the road.
If the driver misses the LED indication on the user interface or the Trailer Air Warning telltale on the vehicle instrument cluster and begins to drive away with the trailer park brake engaged, Intellipark’s Trailer Auto-Park Release will disengage the trailer park brake automatically. This helps reduce the chance for trailer tire flat-spotting, trailer tire fires, and wheel-end damage.
Moreover, Carter says Intellipark is fully configurable by fleets, which can have the system engage automatically if a driver leaves his or her seat, or not allowing the park brake to disengage until the driver has fastened their seatbelt, for example.
Since Intellipark is electronic, it is also positioned for integration with Bendix Wingman Fusion, enabling the use of the parking brakes to further enhance driver assistance functions. In addition, it delivers the parking functions necessary for future autonomous vehicles.
Bendix engineered Intellipark for use with any air-braked vehicle, including tractor-trailers, single-unit trucks, motor coaches, and school buses. It’s designed to help drivers mitigate a variety of unsafe situations, as well as deliver a quick ROI to the fleet through incident prevention and a longer life with minimal maintenance.
Bendix Upgrades Wingman Fusion Performance
Bendix has also made extensive performance enhancements to its Wingman Fusion driver assistance system, Andersky announced at the press conference. Chief among these upgrades are a new highway departure braking, ACB (Active Cruise with Braking) Stop & Driver Go, ACB Auto-Resume, and multi-lane emergency braking to its features, along with even more enhanced collision mitigation and braking capabilities.
Andersky said these enhancements enable Fusion to now provide full braking power on the tractor, compared with the two-thirds power previously possible, along with pulsing air back to the trailer to provide trailer braking, whether or not the trailer has an ABS/TRSP unit. Combined with improved sensor and data analysis, this means that in many emergency situations, the system can reduce a vehicle’s speed by as much as 50 miles per hour.
With the new multi-lane automatic emergency braking feature, if Fusion is applying the brakes due to a vehicle in the lane ahead and the truck driver switches to an adjacent lane, the system will continue applying the brakes if it detects another car ahead in the new lane – helping the driver avoid both the first and potentially second situation, something that can occur when multiple lanes of traffic are blocked on a highway.
Andersky also noted that Fusion’s new highway departure braking capability builds on the system’s existing lane departure warning technology to alert the driver and, if necessary, apply the brakes to slow and further alert the driver if the system determines the vehicle has left the roadway.
Another new Wingman Fusion feature is ACB Stop & Driver Go, which is a low-speed approach to adaptive cruise control for traffic situations. Offering additional convenience, it allows the driver to resume cruise control after braking to a stop without the need to push the resume switch.
The ACB Auto-Resume functionality reengages cruise control after Fusion brakes the vehicle above a certain speed threshold. Today, if the system brakes, the cruise control disengages. With ACB Auto-Resume – a feature of Bendix’s next-generation Fusion system – a driver won’t have to resume cruise if the system brakes and certain parameters are met.
Advancements within the system’s programming improve on Fusion’s ability to recognize potential problems sooner, intervene earlier, and further reduce false alerts and interventions, enhancing its collision mitigation capabilities. Collision mitigation is also improved with the increase in tractor brake application potential, helping to slow the vehicle more safely and effectively, Andersky added.
Additionally, Andersky noted, data collected by Wingman Fusion – generated by the brake sensors, camera, and radar – is particularly valuable to a fleet’s back office. Using the SafetyDirect system accessible by Bendix CVS web portal, Andersky notes that fleets can automatically transmit driver performance and event-based information – including video – providing a wealth of knowledge that can further help fleet managers and drivers strengthen safety.
Enhanced Blind Spot Detection
Bendix has also taken steps to enhance the performance of its BlindSpotter Side Object Detection System, Andersky said.
When connected to the vehicle’s CAN, the new, upgraded BlindSpotter system provides a wider, 150-degree range of coverage capable of detecting objects up to 20 feet in front of and 20 feet behind the BlindSpotter radar. The coverage zone extends up to 10 feet to the right of the vehicle. BlindSpotter minimizes false alerts by operating in two modes: highway speeds and lower speeds. When connected to the CAN and at highway speeds, the sensor filters out stationary objects like guardrails; the slow-speed warning mode – active at less than 20 mph, such as during city driving or in parking lots – narrows the range for alerts and does not filter out stationary targets or infrastructure.
“As with any advanced safety system, BlindSpotter isn’t a substitute for a trained, professional driver practicing safe habits – and it doesn’t replace the need for side and fender-mounted mirrors, or for drivers to check them before changing lanes,” Andersky said. “All trucks have blind spots: This is a proven, reliable technology to help keep an extra set of ‘eyes’ on them.”
Andersky noted that technologies like BlindSpotter do not replace the need for skilled drivers who engage in ongoing training and who practice safe driving habits. “Responsibility for safe operation of any commercial vehicle remains with the driver at all times,” Andersky said. “And that is not going to change in the foreseeable future.