Two prominent suppliers to heavy-duty truck manufacturers unveiled new safety features that they hope will drive adoption of automated and autonomous technology at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta on Tuesday.

Wabco Vehicle Control Systems announced its OnLaneASSIST collision mitigation feature. Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems debuted its Intellipark electronic parking brake to prevent rollaway accidents.

Both companies outlined future strategies centered around providing electronic, connected components that will eventually combine to make automated and autonomous heavy-duty trucks possible.

Suppliers see opportunity as the trucking industry considers a future with increased electrification, connectivity and autonomous capability, said Jacques Esculier, Wabco’s chief executive.

Jacques Esculier, Wabco CEO speaks about Wabco's emergency braking system at the North America Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta.

Jacques Esculier, Wabco CEO speaks about Wabco's emergency braking system at the North America Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta. (Photo: Brian Hadden / Trucks.com)

“The industry will have to rely on suppliers like Wabco,” Esculier said. “We are particularly prepared to steer the leading edge of this migration towards new technologies.”

OnLaneASSIST uses a forward-facing camera and active steering technology to detect unintentional drifting and prevent the truck from leaving its lane. It applies torque to the steering wheel to set the truck toward the center of the lane, and then automatically releases the torque. OnLaneASSIST will be available soon, and Wabco hopes to have it on U.S. roads by the end of the decade.

OnLaneASSIST is the debut offering from Wabco’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems portfolio, an outgrowth of its acquisition of steering technology company R.H. Sheppard Co. earlier this month.

The acquisition of Sheppard, along with its existing air disc brakes equipped with automatic emergency braking, gives Wabco “full control of vehicle dynamics,” Esculier said.

Bendix also makes air disc brakes, and its parent company, Knorr-Bremse Group, acquired Tedrive Steering Systems in 2016, launching similar plans.

“These technologies provide the cornerstones and stepping-stones for future automated systems,” said Berend Bracht, president and chief executive of Bendix.

No new steering technologies were revealed by Bendix, however Bracht made clear the company has plans for such features in the future.

Instead, the Intellipark electronic parking brake addresses the problem of trucks that are not properly secured by drivers and can roll into property or other vehicles.

Bendix cited a Frost & Sullivan survey of truck manufacturers in which nearly 60 percent of respondents reported a “rollaway or runaway” incident within the last two years. Of those, 15 percent involved a fatality.

Intellipark intends to “virtually eliminate the rollaway/runaway crash,” Bracht said.

Fleet trials of the technology will be conducted in 2018.

Safety features will drive the initial wave of automated and autonomous features in heavy-duty trucks, executives said. A recent report by AAA estimated that installing advanced safety systems on heavy-duty trucks could prevent 300 deaths and more than 63,000 collisions in the U.S. annually.

Air disc brakes were one of the features included in the study. Equipping them on existing and new trucks could prevent 37 deaths and more than 2,400 crashes, according to AAA.

Bendix air brake system sits on display at the North America Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta. (Photo: Brian Hadden/ Trucks.com)

Air disc brakes have easier maintenance and better performance than traditional drum brakes. However, they require more up-front cost. Trucks in Europe are mandated by law to use air disc brakes. North America does not have such requirements.

Suppliers are motivated to convince customers that air disc brake systems are cost-effective. The adoption of air disc brakes is crucial to implementing automated and autonomous technology because features like automatic emergency braking or platooning are not possible with drum brakes.

Currently, 70 percent of new trucks in the U.S. are purchased with drum brakes, said Keith McComsey, director of wheel-end marketing at Bendix. The company launched an online tool at ValueByBendix.com to demonstrate the long-term cost savings of switching to air disc brakes.

Kenworth and Peterbilt have equipped new trucks with Bendix air disc brakes as standard equipment since 2013, and they are optional equipment on Navistar LT models. Bendix air disc brake orders are up nearly 40 percent in 2017, McComsey said.

Both Wabco and Bendix previewed technologies they plan to bring to market in the future.

Wabco will update its OnGuard collision mitigation software by adding OnGuardMax, fusing camera and radar systems to improve the system by the end of the decade.

Bendix is preparing the next generation of its Wingman Fusion software, which will strengthen existing braking and collision mitigation, add highway departure braking and use improved radar to implement a side object detection system called Blindspotter 2.0. The company will demonstrate the update later this year and expects its debut in mid-2018.

Both suppliers plan to make greater use of their newly acquired steering technologies. For the time being, however, the future of autonomy runs through the brakes.

“Braking systems are the backbone of vehicle dynamics control,” Esculier said.

Read next: AAA Says Truck Safety Tech Could Stop 63,000 Crashes, 293 Deaths Annually

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