Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bendix safety systems help drivers anticipate danger

Friday, June 4, 2010

In the photo, the tractor-trailer is traveling at a safe distance from the forward car, but as the car slowed down, the Wingman ACB initiated a series of steps to slow down the big rig and keep it a safe stopping distance from the car. (The Trucker: LYNDON FINNEY)
In the photo, the tractor-trailer is traveling at a safe distance from the forward car, but as the car slowed down, the Wingman ACB initiated a series of steps to slow down the big rig and keep it a safe stopping distance from the car. (The Trucker: LYNDON FINNEY)

This is the first of a two-part series on safety systems. First, new advances.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Come and listen to my story ’bout a man named Fred,

A Bendix engineer who down the road he sped,

And then one day a car in front slowed down,

And Fred’s truck braked without a sound.

(No screeching tires, that is.)

OK, OK, apologies to Jed Clampett, Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt.

But to this reporter, riding in the passenger’s seat of a ProStar pulling a trailer, bouncing along Interstate 65 just south of the Kentucky Expo Center, and feeling the big rig slow down without nary a tap on the brake from the driver when the car in front of the tractor slowed down was a bit, well quite a bit, overwhelming.

To a truck driver, it surely is reassuring.

The truck was equipped with Bendix Wingman Active Cruise with Braking (ACB) system, introduced by the company last year, and enhanced this year with stationary object alert.

The system provides always-on warnings for the driver and active interventions when the driver has engaged the cruise control.

Fred Andersky, Bendix director of marketing, controls, had shared at a news conference that morning at the Mid-America Trucking Show and expanded on the announcement with a reporter from The Trucker that afternoon moments before the ride along I-65.

“We launched Wingman ACB last year with Mack and Volvo and this year we’re able to add a little bit of competition because Peterbilt, Kenworth and International are offering the system,” Andersky said.

Wingman ACB, built on Bendix’ ESP platform, was first designed to monitor vehicles moving in the same direction ahead of the truck and maintain a safe distance between the two vehicles.

This year, it has the capability of detecting metallic objects in the road and warning the driver of an impending collisions with a fixed object.

On the road trip at MATS with Andersky behind the wheel of the ProStar, the car in front of the truck slowed down by design because it was manned by two of his associates — Andy Pilkington, an engineer, and Patty Cytacki, a marketing analyst.

Andersky first had his associates maneuver the lead car to a position out of range of the truck’s radar sensors.

Then he asked that the car slow down and as it did, the rig’s radar sensors detected the slower speed and began a deceleration process.

The reporter could hear the engine de-throttle and feel the truck slow even more as the brakes were applied.

In a real-life situation, when and if the forward car sped up, thus putting adequate separation between the car and the truck, the system would automatically accelerate the truck to the original cruise control speed.

“In terms of the technology, it’s only getting better,” Andersky said. “We hope have what we call active collision braking available toward the end of the year. It’s an always-on intervention, meaning that the driver doesn’t have to be in cruise control. The good news is that the system does have a level of upgradability depending on the specific features, so that someone getting the system today won’t be left out in the cold down the road when we get to always on.”

Stationary object alerts systems have been around a while.

Probably the most notable is the Vehicle On-Board Radar (VORAD) first introduced in 1994.

Subsequent systems improved on that first technology, but early generation stationary object alerts systems gave out so many warnings it often annoyed drivers.

“I remember hearing truck drivers refer to it as the bridge warning alert or the overpass alert because every time you went under a bridge it went off. It was that bad,” Andersky said.

Bendix bought VORAD on the last day of 2008 and continues to market the product through Roadranger.

“Because we own VORAD, we know the history on it. VORAD has really come on in terms of being able to help us advance the technology. Our engineers working with their engineers we have it to the point that false alerts are rare,” Andersky said.

And there’s more to come.

Video, of course.

“As much as I’d like to say we’re ready to move forward with video, we’re getting there and I expect to have some announcements before the end of the year if not sooner,” Andersky said, adding that he eventually foresees video integrating with current technologies.

“Now when we first come out with it, will it be an integration system, probably not,” he said. “But the goal is that video does things that radar doesn’t do and radar does things that video doesn’t do. We’ve talked about radar needing to have a metallic object to really be certain. We may pick up a caribou or Bambi in the road from that standpoint, but you really need to have metal on the object to be really sure. Video can give us an idea of something in the road that radar is not picking up.  The future has us being able to use video, not only in a lane departure warning context, but to help complement the radar. And, of course all of that is still built on top of the full-stability system.”

As with all Bendix’ safety systems, video won’t replace the driver’s eyes.

What video is designed to do is to help the driver in case he’s distracted for some reason such as a car cutting in front of him,” he said. “The radar goes out about 16 degrees, 500 feet. The video will go out at a wider angle, but not quite as far. So as we look down the road, video might help in terms of anticipating and also with some stationary objects that might not be visible to the radar. As the technology progresses, we hope to be able to do even more with that combination and even be able to add other types of sensor technology. But critical to all of this is keeping the cost reasonable. The fleet needs to get a return on investment. We’re all in business and it’s important that this technology be able to deliver. But it also needs to be cost effective. And when the technology is cost effective, fleets will take advantage of it.”

Next: Penetration of safety systems in the marketplace.              8

 Lyndon Finney of the Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at,


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