The next stage of trucking safety could bring more automation to minimize human error in the vehicle. Although, new technologies will reduce direct human input when driving, the human operator will continue to play a central role in fleet safety.
“The next big leap for active safety systems will be the addition of active steering,” Alan Korn, director of advanced brake systems and integration at Meritor Wabco, said. “In certain environments, the driver is going to cede complete control of the vehicle over to the control system, but the driver still will be in the seat and ready to take over.”
Active steering describes a steering system for a vehicle in which the driver’s steer input and the angle of steered road wheels is dynamic and changes with the vehicle’s conditions, usually speed. First developed in 2003 by BMW, the main benefit of active steering is facilitated highway travel. During high speed driving, small movements with the steering wheel can result in major shifts, which may cause the vehicle to veer out of its designated lane. However, with active steering, the response from turning is reduced through the vehicle’s automated system and allows the vehicle to better stay in its lane.
Similarly, this technology can help truckers during city driving by increasing the feedback from steering. Drivers would require less movement to make the same turns, thus improving the driving efficiency of their trip.
Image provided by BMW
Looking ahead to the next stage of active safety technology, Korn said it will be important for automated steering systems to provide a sufficient payback to the fleets that invest in it. At the same time, liability potentially could shift from drivers and carriers to truck makers and suppliers if a crash happens during automated control.
“We live in very exciting times,” Korn said. “We can do almost anything with technology today, but we have to make sure we do the right thing and provide a payback.”
Although active steering is years away to becoming a mandated law in trucking, fleet owners can look to implement this technology to help protect their drivers, trucks, and cargo.