While driverless big rigs are still limited to experimental and controlled demonstrations, the trucking industry is making other levels of autonomous technology increasingly standard.
Advanced driver-assisted systems – which include collision mitigation and automated braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings and side alerts – were a major them of the American Trucking Association’s Technology and Maintenance Council’s conference in Atlanta Tuesday.
They are “key” to unlocking the potential value of automated technology like platooning and safety technology, said Carlton Rose, president of global fleet maintenance and engineering at UPS.
The features are “cost-effective technologies that can make the roads safer right now,” Rose said. They are worthy of consideration, he said.
All new UPS Class 8 tractors have had collision mitigation systems since 2015. In October the parcel delivery giant said it would retroactively equip more trucks with the technology, raising the total to 60 percent of its fleet.
The technology is the “enabler for autonomous trucks,” said Stuart Russoli, highway product manager for Mack Trucks. “People ask if we have autonomous trucks. No, but we have a lot of enablers.”
New Class 8 trucks continue to get the advanced systems. On Monday Daimler Trucks North America announced that its proprietary collision mitigation system, Detroit Assurance 4.0, would come standard in new Freightliner Cascadia truck models. Previously the technology was an add-on.
Navistar’s International truck brand was first to make the Bendix Wingman Advanced collision mitigation system standard equipment on a long-haul semi-tractor, the LT series. It made the announcement in September 2016. Others followed. Peterbilt made the Bendix system standard in its Model 579 in March 2017.
Volvo Trucks was the first to introduce the Wingman Fusion technology as standard in its new VNL and VNR series trucks in July. It combines camera technology to verify objects being detected. Mack Trucks said last fall that its new Anthem model also would come standard with the technology.
Peterbilt said Tuesday that it will now offer WABCO’s OnGuard collision mitigation system on three medium-duty models as well.
Fleets may still opt out of these technologies, but some say they will effectively become an industry standard, whether federally mandated or not.
There likely won’t be a need for a federal mandate, said Eric Swaney, manager of connected vehicle uptime solutions at Volvo Trucks. “I think it’s almost self-mandating now. Most customers are demanding those types of systems.”
Government agencies are waiting to see how the technology is adopted industrywide, said Mark Melletat, who heads up fleet sales and services for WABCO North America. “If the adoption rates are high, they won’t pursue legislation.”
Should crashes occur in the future trucking companies will be held more liable if they opted out of these safety systems, predicted Tom Lehman, product manager for Daimler’s Detroit Components.
“[The technology is] being more and more selected,” Lehman said. Additionally, insurance companies have shown interest at demonstrations, which could mean fleets with the technology could receive lower insurance rates, he said.
Insurance companies have also been paying attention to WABCO’s products, said Melletat.
The National Transportation Safety Board listed collision avoidance technologies on its “most wanted list of transportation safety improvements” for 2017 and 2018.
The board recommended that the National Highway Transportation Safety Association write performance standards for collision avoidance systems in commercial vehicles as soon as possible but warned that companies “shouldn’t wait to be told what to do by regulators.”
The technology should be installed fleetwide ahead of the recommendation, it said.