ADAS – a safe bet to improve commercial vehicle efficiency?

Active safety technologies were originally developed to help prevent crashes, but developers have found they can also help curb energy consumption.

While advances in passenger car systems may steal most of the spotlight when it comes to active safety, the trucking segment is also making strides. In particular, new synergies have been found between active safety, connectivity and fuel efficiency.

The idea behind truck automation is to relieve drivers of at least some elements of the job, which can be complex, dangerous or downright boring. However, research has found that there is also an opportunity to save money, an important factor for an industry that is all about efficiency.

Keeping a fleet of 80,000lb (36,300kg) trucks running is expensive, and requires a significant amount of fuel. This is not helped by the fact that a typical diesel Class 8 truck averages single figure miles per gallon. According to the American Transportation Research Institute, fuel accounts for between 30% and 40% of a carrier’s total costs. Whilst initially developed to improve road safety, the likes of adaptive cruise control and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity could potentially reduce those figures.

Predictive energy management

That’s according to engineering consultancy AVL, which believes fuel expenses could fall not only for traditional diesel and natural gas trucks, but also those with a hydrogen fuel cell or battery electric powertrain.

“Total cost of ownership (TCO) and fuel efficiency are particularly important for a commercial vehicle, be it a battery electric or diesel truck. Being able to improve its driving range and save fuel is vital,” explained Stephen Jones, Principal Product Manager, Systems Engineering at AVL during a recent Automotive World webinar. ADAS and V2X, he says, can help trucks to plan more efficient routes and better prepare for fuel-sapping hill climbs.

A driver fuels a Mack® Pinnacle™ Axle Back modelHeavy trucks use a significant amount of fuel

Beneath the umbrella term of ADAS falls ‘advanced predictive functions’, which can give trucks an idea of the road ahead, be it traffic conditions, weather or gradient. While this will improve safety – the truck will be able to slow in advance of heavy traffic, for example – energy management will also improve. “Through what we call the ‘connected powertrain,’ this information tells us how the vehicle can be expected to drive in the future, particularly in relation to its speed and load,” explained Jones.

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