Two questions I am often asked at our technology demonstrations are “what can I expect from collision mitigation on slick surfaces?” and “won’t an automatic brake application cause me to lose control?” My typical response ties to the inclusion of ESP (Electronic Stability Program) as part of the collision mitigation technology to help address slick wintery situations.

Having driven stability control at Keweenaw Research Center (KRC), our winter test facility in Houghton, Michigan, I’m familiar with how the Bendix® safety systems respond in slick conditions. Full-stability technology helped when I applied the brakes in a situation and I figured it would react in an identical way when the collision mitigation system (CMS) applied the brakes as well.

Makes sense, right? Whether I apply the vehicle brakes, or the system applies the brakes, the truck should respond similarly. At least that’s where my thinking was.

And even though I’m well aware our safety systems are rigoursly tested in all sorts of conditions (an exercise that is truly never-ending), I personally didn’t have much experience when it came to a CMS system applying the brakes on a slick surface.

So in January of 2022, while at our annual winter test at KRC, I had the opportunity to experience what our engineers have been testing all long (can’t do much better for finding slick surfaces than at a site at the far tip of the UP in Michigan in January!).

But before we get to my experience in Houghton, let’s set the groundwork with a couple of quick points to keep in mind about collision mitigation technology:

  1. First, CMS technologies help mitigate collisions, or reduce their severity, in pretty much the same way you or I do would act – that’s by reducing throttle and applying the brakes.

    • The big difference is that we physically step on and off the pedals to engage and disengage the brakes and throttle. The CMS, on the other hand, delivers this control through the same braking system, but does so using a mechatronic approach. It reads and assesses the situation through sensors (radars and cameras) and logic (the Electronic Control Unit or ECU). These are the eyes and brains of the CMS system – similar to how you and I use our eyes and brains to figure out and respond to what’s happening.

    • If the system determines a collision is imminent, it will send electronic signals to the brake controller, which then uses mechatronics to reduce throttle and apply the brakes. Again, it’s just like how you or I read and react to a situation unfolding in front of our vehicle.

      • Prior to cutting throttle and applying the brakes, the collision mitigation system provides in-cab alerts as the gap between the truck and the forward vehicle closes.
      • The system also delivers an alert before it intervenes. (In other words, the system gives a head’s up that we should be keeping an eye on things in case we might be distracted.)
  2. Bendix® Wingman® Advanced™ and Fusion™ technologies are built upon full stability control. Full stability – what we call Bendix® ESP® and what’s known as ESC (Electronic Stability Control) in the industry – is designed to help drivers mitigate rollovers and, this is key, help drivers mitigate loss of control situations on wet, snow, and ice-covered surfaces. Just like any safety technology, it’s there to assist the driver – the driver is always in control of the vehicle at all times. And it is important to remember that the system has limits. You can drive too fast and negate its benefit. Nonetheless, by building the collision mitigation technology on top of stability control (which is also built on ABS [antilock braking system]), we’re helping both drivers and the collision mitigation system keep control when brakes are applied.

The system, like you, does this whether the road is dry, wet, snow covered, or icy. I mentioned it above but it’s important to keep this point in mind – Bendix safety technologies complement safe driving practices. No commercial vehicle safety technology replaces a skilled, alert driver exercising safe driving techniques and proactive, comprehensive driver training. Responsibility for the safe operation of the vehicle remains with the driver at all times.

The difference between what you and I do and what the system does may have little difference in terms of the situation. What happens when we apply the brakes on a slick surface? The vehicle slows and eventually stops. If skidding starts to occur, the ABS and stability control systems will intervene to help the driver keep control.

Basically, the same is true for the collision mitigation system. The obvious difference is when either the driver – you or I – or the collision mitigation technology are braking on a slick surface instead of a dry surface, the vehicle requires more time, and more distance to come to a stop. This is worth repeating – time and distance are critical in terms of braking on slick surfaces.

What did we learn while driving in the great white north? We’ll deliver those insights in part two.

Bendix Blog

Technical and industry insight from OUR experts.

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