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April 3, 2017 9:00 AM, EDT

2017: Bendix Cites Active Safety Tech, Air Disc Brakes as Enablers for Automated Driving

John Sommers II for Transport Topics

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The growing adoption of active safety technology and air disc brakes is building a stronger foundation for the movement toward autonomous trucks, executives at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems said.

The next phase in that evolution involves the combination of multiple sensor technologies and functions, said Fred Andersky, director of customer solutions for controls at Bendix.

The company’s latest collision-mitigation system, Wingman Fusion, integrates both camera and radar sensors and the braking system to monitor the vehicle’s surroundings and prevent crashes.

“You see the future starting to come together,” Andersky said at a March 22 press briefing here at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

Bendix, which introduced Wingman Fusion in 2015, is developing a second generation of that system that will include more features and higher levels of performance, Andersky said, adding that the company would announce more details later this year. Current Fusion users will be able to upgrade to the new version when it becomes available.

Beyond that, Bendix plans to integrate blind-spot technology into its active safety systems to help prevent sideswipe crashes, Andersky said.

Bendix also is developing retrofit kits that would help fleets upgrade from one technology to the next on their existing vehicles, rather than purchasing the latest active safety technology only on new trucks.

“Fleets, when they add a technology, don’t want to have it just on their new trucks. They want to add it on all the trucks they have in their fleet,” Andersky said.

Meanwhile, the shorter stopping distances enabled by air disc brakes will help support the introduction of automated driving technologies and platooning, Bendix said.

Air disc brakes will be important not only for the tractor, but for the trailer as well, said Keith McComsey, director of marketing and customer solutions for wheel-end products at Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake.

“We can’t forget about the trailer,” he said. “It really plays an important role in reducing stopping distances.”

Air disc brakes also help keep the trailer behind the tractor during hard braking events, he added.

McComsey said market penetration for air disc brakes in 2016 was about 16% for trucks and 6% for trailers, but projected that those figures would to climb to 27% and 20%, respectively, by 2020.

Adoption of active safety technologies also is on the rise.

Bendix said more than 200,000 of its forward collision warning and mitigation systems are on the road today, with adoption of collision mitigation more than tripling over the past five years.

The company said its electronic stability control system, first introduced in 2005, has now been equipped on more than 500,000 vehicles.

Andersky predicted that figure could rise to 600,000 by next year, driven in part by the federal government’s electronic stability control mandate, which applies to new trucks built on or after Aug. 1.

Also at MATS, Kenworth Truck Co. and Peterbilt Motors Co. announced that they would make Bendix’s radar-based Wingman Advanced system standard on their T680 and Model 579 on-highway trucks in July. Navistar announced in September that its new LT Series model would come standard with Wingman Advanced.