Innovation Truck One Truck - three Assistants

At this year’s IAA, ZF will unveil three totally new safety features for commercial vehicles.

The threatening image of the truck in the rear-view mirror looms ever larger. Can he see me? Will he stop in time? What if he doesn’t? Most people who have driven on highways or freeways will have experienced those anxious seconds of waiting as the last driver in a long line of vehicles watches a large truck approaching from behind at full speed.

Watch the video to find out more about the ZF Innovation Truck.

Usually it all ends well, even if the truck driver’s attention is briefly distracted. After all, most modern trucks are fitted with a powerful Advanced Emergency Braking System (AEBS), as well as the ubiquitous Electronic Stability Control (ESC). Working automatically and in unison, these systems are capable of bringing even a 40-ton truck to a safe standstill while ensuring that it doesn’t swerve. Even so, too frequently for comfort, such everyday situations do still end in disaster. Increasingly, rear-end shunts are becoming the most common type of accident caused by trucks, and they can result in serious injuries, or even fatalities. Now, with the world’s first Evasive Maneuver Assist (EMA) system for trucks, ZF and project partner Wabco have invented a feature that can help prevent this type of crash more effectively than any previous system.

Features for more Safety

Evasive Maneuver Assist (EMA)

Peter Lake, ZF Board member

EMA is one of three new safety and comfort assistants for commercial vehicles that ZF will be presenting at this year’s IAA International Motor Show. “When it comes to developing vehicles that can see, think and act, we’re now the go-to partner for our customers,” says ZF Board member Peter Lake. “We’re using our strength in advanced technology to help make mobility safer and more efficient, boost automated driving and bring the ‘Toward Zero’ vision – meaning zero road fatalities – closer to reality.” A change of scene: rounding a corner into the straight, test driver Andreas Arnegger steers the ZF Innovation Truck 2016 toward a line of stationary vehicles – a typical traffic jam – at around 50 mph, the statutory speed limit for heavy trucks in Germany. Rain has made the road wet enough for aquaplaning to be a serious risk. In such extreme conditions, explains ZF project manager Sven Gohl, standard braking distances can be inadequate, even for EABS systems. Similar situations occur when obstacles are hidden around blind corners or over blind summits, when vehicles suddenly cut across lanes, or when roads are slippery with ice or snow.

Systems working in perfect harmony

In the cab, Arnegger deliberately ignores the first wave of audible and visual AEBS warning signals. Only when the truck has already started to brake by itself and the hazard has escalated to the highest level does he briefly pull on the steering wheel, activating the EMA feature in the process. The test driver immediately takes his hands off the steering wheel again, passing control of the truck over to the combined intelligence of the environmental sensors, braking system and ZF’s electrohydraulic ReAX power steering. And as anticipated, the ZF Innovation Truck steers itself into the empty adjacent lane; the rollover protection feature helps to ensure that the trailer stays in line. At the same time, the truck rapidly and purposefully decelerates. The 40-ton monster comes to a complete standstill about one and a half car lengths from the rear of the traffic jam. Even under full braking, if the truck had not simultaneously carried out this evasive maneuver, it would have crashed into the vehicle at the rear of the line at around 10 mph, releasing the same amount of energy as an average-sized family sedan traveling at 50 mph.

High-quality system

Happily, there was never any real danger here. ZF tests out new safety features on a private test circuit, with the help of professional drivers. One of them is Ellen Lohr, the first and only woman to win a German Touring Car Masters (DTM) race, nine-time participant in the Dakar Rally and, since 2013, a regular competitor in the European Truck Racing Championship. She is impressed by the evasive maneuver: “Inside the truck, you’re thrown around in your seatbelt and against the sides of your seat, but from outside, the semi-automatic swerve looks totally unspectacular. That all points to a very high-quality system,” she concludes, adding that “I wouldn’t have been able to spontaneously perform such a demanding maneuver with that degree of precision.”

Fractions of a second before EMA performs the automatic evasive maneuver.

Highway Driving Assist (HDA)

Highway Driving Assist enables truckers to temporarily hand over control to their vehicles.

Elsewhere on the test track, the Innovation Truck chases a compact car. In this case, the truck is steering, braking and accelerating by itself. Apart from lane changes, the driver is leaving everything to the vehicle systems. The truck is faithfully staying in lane and maintaining a constant safe distance from the vehicle in front by braking and accelerating as required. Once the road ahead is clear, the truck returns to the speed previously entered in the cruise control settings.

Since nobody is currently having to operate the truck’s steering wheel, pedals or automatic ZF TraXon Hybrid transmission system, ZF project coordinator Lex van Rooij is free to explain just how this integrated Highway Driving Assist (HDA) function works. “Basically, we transferred a package of car applications to this truck. Our optical S-Cam camera system at the top of the windshield detects the lane ahead, while our AC1000 radar system in the radiator grille below measures distances and speeds relative to all objects in front of us. Both systems are standard products that communicate with each other and with the steering, braking, engine and transmission systems.” The brain managing the whole thing is a dedicated control electronics package developed by ZF. If necessary, it is even capable of compensating virtually for the absence of lane markings on one side or the other.

What sounds like a convenience is really a safety feature. “In the future, HDA won’t just warn truck drivers, it’ll use its automated driving functions to help actively prevent the vehicle from leaving its lane. Consequently it helps to protect drivers against one of the most frequent causes of accidents,” confirms project manager Gohl.

Safe Range

A tap on the tablet and the truck automatically backs up to the loading dock.

If a semitrailer truck is capable of temporarily taking full control, will there come a time when drivers can leave the cab completely? In one situation, most definitely. Sven Gohl is standing next to a warehouse loading dock with his finger poised over a tablet computer. Humming quietly, with no local emissions – because TraXon Hybrid is operating in all-electric mode – the driverless Innovation Truck starts to reverse. 30 seconds later, a vehicle that was almost 200 feet away from and positioned at 90 degrees to the loading dock has backed up and parked alongside the dock, with millimetric precision. “The new SafeRange feature is similar to the Parking Assist feature we introduced two years ago. It helps to prevent maneuvers from causing expensive damage to vehicles and loading docks. But we’ve enhanced it in various even more practical ways,” says Gohl. First, you no longer need to remote-steer the truck by swiping fingers across tablet screens; all you have to do is press a virtual button on the display. Second, the necessary sensors – primarily cameras – are installed on the loading dock rather than in trailers or semitrailers.All that appears on the trailer are two analog markings – experts call them “targets”. The rest of the technology is installed in the tractor unit, the actual warehouse, and partially in the ether: a central computer at the logistics company calculates the route the truck must take from its current parking position and transmits this information via wireless LAN to the telematics system installed in the vehicle, ZF Openmatics.

Using GPS data for maneuvering

The electronic control system also installed in the vehicle then automatically guides the truck to its destination, using ReAX active steering and all the other systems required to drive or brake the vehicle. In addition to the cameras, SafeRange also uses highly detailed GPS data to continuously calculate the truck’s exact position. “Careful,” calls Gohl suddenly, as a colleague crosses the path of the reversing truck during yet another approach maneuver. Although ZF has not yet taught the Innovation Truck to listen, the vehicle still comes to an immediate halt – because SafeRange had already detected the pedestrian. Demonstrating once again how the SafeRange feature, along with ZF’s other new driver-assist features, is helping to significantly improve road safety.

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