October 27, 2019 11:15 PM, EDT

ZF Announces OEM Launches for Automated Steering, New Transmission

ZFDan Williams with ZF Friedrichshafen addresses the media. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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ATLANTA — Component supplier ZF Group announced that its active steering technology and new automatic transmission soon will become available in North America.

ZF’s OnTraX lane-keeping and lane-change assist system for heavy-duty tractors will launch with its first major North American truck manufacturer toward the end of 2020, the company said at an Oct. 27 press conference here at the 2019 North American Commercial Vehicle Show.

That driver-assist technology, enabled by ZF’s ReAx steering system, provides automatic steering corrections to nudge the truck back into its lane when it starts to drift, and also uses vibration at the steering wheel to warn drivers when they start to move into a lane occupied by another vehicle.

RELATED: ZF Showcases Steering Assistance as Next Advance in Truck Safety

ZF also announced that global production of its PowerLine transmission will begin in the fourth quarter of 2020, with a North American truck maker planning to offer the product in early 2021.

The fully automatic 8-speed transmission is designed for a range of vehicle classes, from Class 3 up to “baby 8” applications, said Christian Feldhaus, head of truck and van driveline technology for North America.


Feldhaus speaks about ZF's new advancements. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

Meanwhile, ZF continues to invest in truck electrification.

The company announced that the battery-electric eCascadia tractors in the Freightliner Innovation Fleet each feature a pair of ZF’s AxTrax electric drive axles.

The upcoming product launches are part of ZF’s broader push toward its vision of “zero crashes and zero emissions,” said Tomas Bozek, senior vice president of commercial vehicle technology.

To that end, ZF is investing $13.9 billion in autonomous driving and e-mobility over the next five years, he said.

ZF also aims to close its planned acquisition of braking and safety technology supplier Wabco by the beginning of 2020, Bozek said.

That deal, first announced in March, would help ZF achieve full systems capabilities for the commercial vehicle market, he said.

Regarding automation, ZF is pursuing both advanced driver assistance systems and highly automated trucks.

Automated driving technology is a good fit for trucking, compared with other sectors such as the passenger car market, said Dan Williams, ZF’s director of ADAS and autonomy.

“We would say that commercial vehicles are kind of the Goldilocks scenario for automation, where things are sort of just right,” he said.

About two-thirds of commercial trucks spend the vast majority of their time on the road traveling at a steady speed on the highway, staying in their lane — conditions that are easier to automate than urban environments, Williams said.

To support these automated driving features, ZF plans to launch its next generation of onboard sensors in 2020, he added. Those sensors will have longer range, a wider field of view and higher resolution to support increasingly complex ADAS functions, Williams said.

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