Commercial vehicle supplier Wabco Vehicle Control Systems sees a future in self-driving trucks.
The company, based in Belgium, outlined an array of new automated features at the 2018 IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hanover, Germany.
It will expand its line of OnGuard collision mitigation systems, introduce lane-keeping technology and launch new advanced air disc brakes suited for developing automated truck technologies such as platooning. Wabco will also produce an intelligent braking system for trailers that uses stored energy to accelerate and reduce fuel consumption.
The variety of Wabco products and technologies currently under development highlights the role that commercial suppliers, independent of vehicle manufacturers such as Daimler and Volvo, play in moving electrification and automation forward.
Wabco will launch an active lane-keep assist for heavy trucks called OnLaneASSIST in the U.S. in 2019. The technology is currently testing in India.
Its signature OnGuard safety suite is set to receive heavy updates. An enhanced OnGuard Active will be released in the second quarter of next year with improved operation in heavy weather and poor visibility.
OnGuard MAX, available late next year, offers adaptive cruise control with optional stop and go. It also has automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection up to about 13 mph.
OnCity Urban Turning Assist will use lidar to recognize when the vehicle may be in danger of striking a pedestrian outside the driver’s field of vision — specifically when the vehicle is making a low-speed turn in intersections.
OnCity can bring trucks, buses and tractor trailers to a stop automatically. It can also be retrofitted onto existing, older vehicles. Wabco will bring the technology to market in late 2020.
Connecting the Entire Truck
Demand for electrified and automated safety features is finally catching up to the technology available, said Christian Brenneke, Wabco’s chief technology officer.
“We’re focusing on bringing all the technologies together in a way to enable cost reduction and efficiency,” Brenneke said.
One example is the company’s new electric trailer, or eTrailer. The concept recovers energy gained under braking and stores it to power an electric motor that helps the trailer accelerate.
The system is heavy, adding nearly 1,800 pounds to the weight of a conventional trailer. But its motor carries enough energy to reduce fuel consumption by 20 percent on short-haul routes and 10 percent on long-haul trips.
Wabco did not say when it expects to build a production version of the eTrailer, but it displayed a working prototype in Hanover. There is already interest from potential buyers, Brenneke said.
“We have the fleets asking to immediately get it,” he said.
The eTrailer spotlights the efforts of commercial suppliers to electrify and connect the entire tractor-trailer system.
- German competitor ZF Friedrichshafen this summer demonstrated an automated truck that can attach or detach trailers on its own.
- Robert Bosch LLC introduced an electric axle for trailers in Hanover.
- American supplier Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems specializes in automated braking systems and is racing Wabco to connect the entire vehicle.
Wabco’s approach has earned the company praise on Wall Street. Its future vision and impressive technology prompted research firm Stifel Financial Corp. to place a “buy” rating on Wabco stock.
“Those advantages are related to the company’s closeness with Daimler, the largest truck manufacturer in the world, and bolstered by Wabco’s modular braking system, which enhances the ability to supply brakes to a range of equipment types and values for various regions around the world,” Stifel analyst Michael J. Baudendistel wrote in a recent investment report.
Wabco also has partnerships with other top suppliers. Next year it will introduce a double-radar backup alert from Continental. When it comes to market, OnCityALERT will use radar and solid-state lidar from Valeo. OnGuardMAX uses a front camera system co-developed with Mobileye N.V. and its powerful EyeQ4 processing chip.
Wabco plans to work with Chinese artificial intelligence supplier Baidu. The partnership aims to use Baidu’s Apollo platform to develop the Level 4 and Level 5 automated technology for truck manufacturers and fleets, said Jacques Esculier, Wabco’s chief executive. They are the top levels in self-driving technology.
It also has an agreement with Nidec Corp., a Japanese manufacturer of electric motors. Together the companies will develop a fully integrated vehicle connecting the electric drivetrain with electric brakes and steering. The first application will be electric city buses, possibly in China, Esculier said.
Back to Brakes
Most of the talk in Hanover centered around advanced driver-assistance systems, or ADAS. But the key to fully connected vehicles remains the brakes themselves, Brenneke said.
Wabco announced the fifth generation of its high-performance MAXX brakes. The new line will be modular, meaning they can be used on a variety of commercial vehicle classes, from buses to the largest heavy-duty trucks.
The brakes are lighter and produce less drag than the previous version, allowing trucks to reduce fuel consumption and increase payload. The new MAXX brakes will be available in 2019.
Brakes are the core of Wabco’s business. The company has sold more than 6 million advanced air disc brake systems. Air disc brakes are nearly standard on commercial vehicles in Europe. But in the U.S. the majority of trucks sold are still equipped with older drum brakes that cannot be integrated into an electric platform.
Getting manufacturers and fleets on board with connected brakes is important. In his analysis, Baudendistel pointed to the safety record of OnGuard Active. The system reduced rear-end collisions by 80 percent in equipped trucks.
“We now have a solution which is attractive for a fleet to shift from drum brakes to ADAS brakes,” Brenneke said. “There’s a financial payback plus an additional safety aspect.”