Meritor Wabco Ups Safety Quotient

In the minds of Jon Morrison and Scott Belcher, innovation comes from pushing the limits. First came anti-lock brakes for trucks, then the OnGuard collision mitigation system (CMS). Now, Meritor Wabco is taking safety to a new level with its next-generation OnGuard system as well as a new lane departure warning system, electronically controlled air suspension and a stability and traction control system called ESCsmart.

All the technologies were on display during a media briefing yesterday at the company’s facility in Rochester, MI, and on-track demonstrations at the Ford Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo, MI.

“It’s pretty easy to be skeptical about true innovation,” said Morrison, president & general manager of Meritor Wabco.

Belcher, president & CEO of Intelligent Transportation Society (ITS) of America called the OnGuard system “a great example” of a technology that is innovative and changing the landscape of vehicle technologies as we know it.

“The future is big data,” Belcher said. “The future is managing big analytic data and that’s exactly what Meritor Wabco’s OnGuard system does.”

Belcher presented Morrison and Meritor Wabco with ITS’s Smart Solutions Spotlight Award for the development of its OnGuard system.

Morrison noted that Meritor Wabco now has more than 7 million ABS systems on North American roads and about 50 fleets operating more than 25,000 trucks with the OnGuard system installed.

The next-generation of OnGuard features collision warning, adaptive cruise with active braking and collision mitigation. It also offers improved object tracking, including stationary object warning for the first time, and extends the range of the radar system.

“We could have had stationary alerts (some time before), but we wanted to wait because we didn’t want to lose the confidence of the driver of a truck that has radar that can break his truck,” said Morrison. “When it warns, it’s got to be right.”

To minimize false warnings, the radar resolution has been improved. It has also added an evasive maneuver check, which uses the radar’s 200 meter 18-deg. long beam and 56-deg. short beam range to monitor the roadway both in front of the vehicle and in adjacent lanes.

“If it sees there is a vehicle in the adjacent lane, it knows it can’t do an evasive maneuver so it will intervene sooner,” said Alan Korn, director-brake system integration. “It will provide a haptic (rapid pulsating of the brakes) warning and if the driver doesn’t respond, it will intervene.”

Another improvement is the auto alignment feature which ensures the radar is positioned correctly at all times.

“The radar has to be aligned properly with this system,” Korn pointed out. “The radar will sense the lane and align automatically.”

A larger high-resolution display is included for the dash.

The next-gen system is also designed to more aggressively brake the vehicle over the current system’s one-third to one-half of a full brake application.

The new OnGuard system, which the company said will be priced similarly to its current system, will be available towards the end of this year.

Also new is an updated lane departure warning system that utilizes Takata’s SafeTrak system. In October of 2011, Meritor Wabco announced an alliance with Takata under which Meritor Wabco would market and distribute the SafeTrak lane departure warning system.

Meritor Wabco’s new lane departure warning (LDW) system builds upon that agreement by using the vision-based SafeTrak system and incorporating the entire package in a “single box solution,” Morrison said. Included in this package is a drowsy driving feature.

The vision-based system audibly warns the driver if the vehicle leaves its lane without a turn signal being turned on. It also alerts drivers to lane drifts and weaving.

Advanced image analysis algorithms enable the LDW to detect a wide variety of lane markings, including tire tracks on snow-covered roads, allowing it to adjust lane settings based on the current conditions.

It also has a driver alertness warning (DAW) feature, aka a drowsy driving feature. This is designed to identify when a driver may be fatigued and alerts the driver to that condition.

A basic version will be available in October with a full system available in early 2013, Korn said. The basic version will include the drowsy driver feature while the full system will add collision warning, curve speed warning, video event recording and a 3-axis accelerometer.

There is also a new electronically controlled air suspension (ECAS) that reduces weight, improves traction on 6×2 vehicles, and monitors ride height while minimizing air volume and air consumption, the company said.

ECAS controls a vehicle’s air suspension control system by managing ride height electronically, Meritor Wabco said. With the new system, ride height is only adjusted when there is a change in load, or when triggered manually. ECAS is capable of dropping or raising the suspension as needed and then returns the vehicle to normal ride height when the vehicle reaches a pre-set speed.

According to the company, by electronically controlling the ride height, fleets will see a reduction in air consumption due to less compressor duty cycle and improved fuel economy.

One feature of the system is its ability to automatically transfer load, giving the drive axle on a 6×2 configuration more traction to reduce wheel spin during aggressive acceleration events.

This will be available in the fourth quarter of this year.

Morrison also talked about the company’s new ESCsmart stability control.

“It is an advancement in ‘self-learning’ capabilities,” Morrison pointed out.

ESCsmart assists electronic stability control through the new “self-learning” function. The system records dynamic vehicle characteristics and “learns” how the vehicle is performing and changing, automatically adjusting settings as the vehicle operates to maintain optimum performance without the need to reprogram the electronic control unit (ECU).

According to Meritor Wabco, the self-learning capabilities of the system results in significant reduction of the validation process for manufacturers since it can be driven off the assembly line with the optimum settings. The system is designed to automatically adapt to the specific vehicle parameters during the normal driving process.

Other advantages touted by the company include the flexible nature of the system which allows it to adapt to multiple vehicle types, including those with three axles, steerable lift axles and straight trucks that tow trailers; the elimination of a fixed driving calibration procedure each time an ECU is replaced; and constant tuning of the system as parts wear and vehicle characteristics change.

ESCsmart is designed to automatically adapt to the changes in the steering ratio to maintain integrity of the ESC system, the company said.

It will be included in Meritor Wabco’s next-generation ESC system, to be released in early 2014.