Auto Manifesto

November 7, 2008

Autonomous Truck Braking

WABCO will be launching an autonomous braking system for heavy trucks in Europe in 2010, with the US market to follow some time after.

I’ve been in a truck equipped with this during a demonstration and it was quite impressive. The challenge at the time was reliably determining which objects were threats and which were not.

It’s a tough balancing act because to err one way or another is unacceptable. If there are frequent false alarms drivers will tune out valid warnings. And if there are not enough alarms imminent collisions could go undetected when most needed.

The system now uses two technologies in conjunction with one another; video and laser. It’s capable of detecting threats as small as a motorcycle, but not bicycles or pedestrians. That would require considerably more computing power.

The way it works is that it first issues a visual and audible warning when it detects a possible collision. Then it reduces engine torque. Finally, if an impact is unavoidable, a full brake application is provided.

Note the interesting point about convoying (aka platooning) in the 4th paragraph from the end.

As the company says it will be expensive at first. But as with most things, as the production volume increases the costs should come down.

More info here: http://www.sae.org/mags/AEI/4779

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