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The commercial vehicle industry is poised to get even smarter thanks to health-ready components, which can offer insight into the condition of a part, system or even an entire vehicle using mathematical models and self-monitoring. Health-ready components not only monitor or control a vehicle function, but also self-monitor to a level that makes the component its own service bay. Like a muscle, a health-ready component can know the difference between being sore and needing to back off, or a high level of pain that indicates damage could be happening.
Health-ready components could, for example, provide for condition-based maintenance, sending out alerts for the actual or anticipated condition of a part or system on a truck. Fleets would have self-adapting trucks and receive feedback from a truck as its own rolling service bay. That means less downtime for fleets, lower maintenance costs and more reliable vehicles.
Ultimately, health-ready technology can provide Integrated Vehicle Health Management for fleets as well as the truck original equipment manufacturer supply chain and maintenance support within a fleet. As described by the Society of Automotive Engineers, IVHM is “an end-to-end capability that transforms system data into operational support information to help enable optimized maintenance actions; improved readiness and availability; enhanced vehicle safety and reliability; product life extension; and product improvement and new design paradigms.”
SAE International has created a common standard (SAE JA6268) and registry to assess health-ready components. The standard can be used as a consistent, neutral approach to assessing a device, weighing factors such as data collection, data manipulation, state detection, health assessment, prognostics assessment and the ability to provide usable information within the truck to other vehicles, roadside and beyond.
SAE has defined different levels of vehicle health readiness. At the most basic levels, this means almost no automation. But the higher levels allow trucks to alert operators and technicians to problems with components or the entire vehicle as they happen or before they occur. High levels of health readiness also could involve a truck making necessary adjustments to ensure continued operation as well as safety.
Applications for Autonomous
Health-ready technology has a role to play in autonomous technology. In the future, the safety of Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems and truck automation technologies will rely on real-time condition-based health and maintenance information. Adaptive cruise control and self-braking already exist on individual trucks, but as assisted and automated platooning evolve, tractor-trailer systems will need to know and share their states of health and performance relative to drag, braking and acceleration.
Platooning occurs when individual tractor-trailers closely follow each other in a line or train to reduce aerodynamic resistance and ultimately conserve fuel. In the event a tractor-trailer in the line needs to brake or accelerate, all the tractor-trailers within the line must be capable of responding at the same performance level. At a high level of health-ready technology, the tractor-trailer would know that all vehicles are within safety performance levels; at a higher level it would be possible for the tractor-trailers to adjust to the weakest link within a safe range of performance, thereby increasing safety.
As assist systems and automation are added, systems require a health-ready nervous system with sensors and components equipped to augment or replace the driver. That said, a good driver is still required to “feel” a loose lug nut or wheel-end drag that could cause a thermal event, as well as verify slow airline leaks, fluid smells, electric motor burn and subtle changes in cranking. Similarly, there may be moments when the driver just knows something is not right. Health-ready technology can be developed to aid or replace some of these driver responsibilities.
Applications for Maintenance
Health-ready systems can make real-time condition-based maintenance a reality. A vehicle at a high level of health readiness can notify the fleet of required maintenance before failure, potentially preventing disruption of service for a specific vehicle. At an even higher level, a vehicle can adjust its behavior to prevent collateral damage. This enables fleet maintenance departments and suppliers to schedule maintenance as necessary. Additionally, fleet customer service departments will have time to make proactive changes to asset usage, ensuring customers’ needs are addressed.
A truck containing high levels of health-ready components will act as its own service bay, with a virtual nervous system that assuages driver and technician shortages. But those drivers and technicians still will require technical skills and appropriate compensation for this new age of technology — because surprises can happen even with the most advanced systems.
Wally Stegall is the technical fellow and director of business development at Morey, where he leads engineering, sales, technical management and business development efforts for the company. He has nearly 30 years of industry experience, having previously worked with Textrol, VES and AMETEK.