Trucking Industry Debates Driver-Assistance Technologies

HDT Equipment Editor Jim Park addresses the panel at the NSC and NTSB's roundtable discussion on ADAS. Photo: Stephane Babcock

The National Safety Council and the National Transportation Safety Board hosted a roundtable discussion prior to this week's Fleet Safety Conference here about the future of advanced driver assistance systems in trucking.

The series of discussions brought together leaders in the world of driving assistance technology, the trucking industry, original equipment manufacturers, media, and insurers to talk about the current state of ADAS and how it could most effectively be implemented into commercial trucking.

The session took place on July 24 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel in Schaumburg, Ill., the day before the official start of the Fleet Safety Conference, which takes place July 25 to 26.

NSC President and CEO Deborah Hersman, who is a former chair of NTSB, gave an opening address in which she spoke about the importance of ADAS adoption in trucking as a way to improve safety. She implored the industry to trust the technology while acknowledging the difficulty in training drivers and balancing costs for fleets.

“We have to face the fact that heavy-duty vehicles can cause a disproportionate impact in certain events,” said Hersman. “We have the potential to use game-changing technology today, but we’ve got to invest in that technology in fleets and commit to improving that technology with operational experience.”

After her keynote, a panel of industry experts opened a series of topical discussions covering the current state of ADAS, driver interaction, regulation vs. voluntary adoption, and challenges of implementation.

Executives from Bendix and Wabco were on hand to discuss the technical aspects of ADAS, including its use of radar and sensors, automatic braking and driver alerts. Fred Andersky, director of customer solutions & marketing and government affairs for Bendix, spoke about the current state of driver assistance systems and how they are already being integrated into vehicles.

Andersky said that the systems designed for heavy-duty vehicles were currently at collision mitigation level one, meaning alerts and some automatic braking, no driver replacement systems. Despite all of the discussion about autonomous vehicles, the industry was not nearly at that point, he said.

Many new vehicles come equipped with or can be equipped with some form of collision mitigation, but with added costs and the possibility of federal mandate, fleets are skeptical. Jim Park, equipment editor for Heavy Duty Trucking magazine, said that he expects fleets to be wary about implementation-- referring to older versions of collision mitigation that were problematic and “not ready for prime time.”

When fleets invest in the early version of technologies and they don’t work as advertised, they tend to be cautious of the better versions that come out later, even if they are told that all of the kinks are worked out. “Fleets have long memories,” said Park.

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