Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bendix fuses systems to create next gen collision mitigation

Press day at the Mid-America Trucking Show was just minutes old when the first big announcement came down.

Building on a product portfolio that has already brought electronic stability control into the rulemaking arena, Bendix announced the next generation of collision mitigation technology, the Wingman Fusion.

Bendix Director of Marketing and Customer Solutions T.J. Thomas explained how the system fuses cameras, radar and brakes to help fleets and drivers avoid, or at least mitigate, crashes.

T.J. Thomas, center, discusses the Wingman Fusion by Bendix.
Photo by David Tanner, Land Line Magazine
The camera points forward, the radar detects vehicles or stationary objects in the road, and the system provides alerts to the driver. The braking system will engage if the driver does not react in time or if the system deems that the truck is closing too fast on the vehicle or object.

Another feature of the Wingman Fusion involves an alert if a truck is going, say, 5 mph or 10 mph over the posted speed limit. The cameras detect the shape and number on a posted speed-limit sign, and alerts the driver with an audible signal if he or she is traveling above a pre-set level. At 10 mph over, or whatever setting the fleet decides, the audible alert amps up and the system will even cut engine power for a split second as an additional alert to slow down.

Data from the alert is also sent back to the fleet's back office, as Bendix says, for "coaching" purposes.

The company says Wingman Fusion is a "driver assistance system" and is not meant to replace driving skills.

"This is here to help the driver if he has a bad day," Thomas told the assembled media.

We wanted to know how the recognition of posted speed limits would work in construction zones. Thomas says its system differs from a vehicle-to-infrastructure system or GPS-based system because the cameras are actually reading the speed-limit signs. He added that if the system doesn't recognize a sign, or if the sign is twisted or not facing the right way, the system cannot read it and will therefore not trigger an alert. When it comes to split speeds for cars and trucks, Thomas says the system will read the higher limit and will not produce an alert unless the truck is going faster than the higher of the two limits.

Wingman Fusion is available on Class 6, 7 and 8 trucks with any air-braked vehicle that is compatible with Bendix's ESP full-stability system.

Bendix is confident that "collision mitigation" will become a regulatory action in the near future.

Bendix Director of Government Affairs Fred Andersky mentioned during his overview of legislative and regulatory issues that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received a petition to place collision mitigation in the regulatory agenda. The National Transportation Safety Board has also identified technology and maintenance in its annual "most wanted" list of recommendations to regulators.

Bendix has already been at the forefront for electronic stability control, known as ESC. The company's version of ESC has sold 375,000 units.

Andersky said he's optimistic that NHTSA will publish its final rule on ESC sometime in the second quarter of 2015. NHTSA has currently pegged May 2 as its publication date. The regulatory action currently resides at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

For drivers concerned about mandates, Bendix offers up the following quotable nugget: "We don't want drivers asking 'why is this on our trucks?' We want them to say, 'I'm glad that this is on my truck.'"

As a matter of record, OOIDA does not oppose the technology itself nor the choices of fleets or truck owners to use it, but the Association does oppose a mandate of so-called safety technologies on all trucks and for all drivers. The Association supports responsible entry-level driver training for truckers.

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