NEW TWIST ON THE RADAR THEME

Rolf Lockwood

February 13, 2008 Vol. 4, No. 4

I had to go to Florida the week before last. It was work. First there was a couple of days with the folks from Meritor WABCO, which I’ll tell you about in a minute, and then it was TMC. The annual meeting of the Technology and Maintenance Council in Orlando, to be precise, along with its small but lively trade show. Sure, the weather was warm and the sun was shining, but it was work. Pure coincidence that it was cold and snowy in Toronto the whole week I was away.

So was it worth facing the jealous sneers of family and friends and co-workers when I got back? Yep.

TMC’s big event is always worth the trip, of course, and this year there was the bonus of track time with Meritor WABCO beforehand. They were introducing the press to what seems like a terrific new product called OnGuard, which I’ve written about in the second item below. It’s a radar-based adaptive cruise control system with the significant addition of active braking, the first time we’ve seen such technology in North America. Active braking automatically uses the truck’s foundation brakes to slow the truck – and alert the driver to impending trouble if he’s ignored the audible and visual warnings — when a pre-set vehicle following distance is compromised.

The system will stop the truck ultimately, as I discovered during testing at a small Orlando airport, but that’s not the intent. Collision avoidance is the name of the game, though the automatic braking action – delivering about a third of a full brake application – would certainly reduce the impact of an unavoidable collision.

OnGuard watches the vehicle ahead – it will also spot pedestrians, for example – by way of a mono-pulse radar beam, and a yaw sensor adjusts its angle to ensure that it’s following the truck’s line of travel. There’s really not much else to it, on the face of things. It’s fully integrated with Meritor WABCO’s ABS and stability control systems, all of them running off the single ABS electronic control unit in a building block sort of way — versus having other add-on systems. The only OnGuard additions are the radar sensor and dash display, aside from the software that co-ordinates responses from the radar sensor, engine, transmission, and ABS, communicating across an SAE J1939 data network.

And yes, the brake lights do come on when the system’s active.

Rolf Lockwood

Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to Trucknews.com.

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