In the past year and a half, all new HGVs sold in Europe have been required by law to feature autonomous breaking capabilities, meaning that in emergency situations they can reliably be expected to slow down even if the human driver does not react in a timely fashion.
Regulators are in the process of making the minimum specifications of these systems even more stringent in an attempt to combat collisions and improve safety for all road users across the continent. And Volvo Trucks is looking to position itself at the forefront of the market when it comes to automatic braking technology, according to UK Haulier.
Emergency Braking System Focus
From 2018 onwards, the emergency brakes which are applied automatically when a hazard is detected will need to reduce the speed at which a truck is moving by 20 kilometres an hour, which is twice the current reduction target. This presents its own challenges, but Volvo Trucks spokesperson Carl Johan Almqvist explained that the firm has ambitions to far exceed these legal minimums.
When the brakes kick in automatically, a truck can be brought to a standstill just as quickly as a modern passenger car, in spite of being significantly larger and heavier. This results in a stopping distance of as little as 40 metres when the initial speed of the truck is 80kmph.
Almqvist points out that the system is not solely aimed at taking action automatically in emergencies but also about alerting drivers to oncoming hazards so that they can intervene themselves and avert accidents manually. Alerts are provided when the integrated camera systems and radar sensors detect obstacles, such as other vehicles, which are in the path of the truck.
The most significant advantage of this system is that it is capable of working in any type of weather, even when standard levels of visibility are low as a result of rain, snow and fog. And the emergency braking itself is not applied in an all-or-nothing fashion but rather starts gradually and only kicks into full force if it is entirely necessary.
As well as braking until the truck comes to a halt, the system has the capacity to apply the handbrake to prevent the HGV from rolling forwards or backwards, and it can also activate the hazard lights to warn others.
A Positive Impact on Road Safety
Volvo Trucks is honest about the amount of time it will take for the introduction of the legislation and the systems it has created to have a positive impact on road safety, since fleets are updated incrementally and not all operators buy new trucks as soon as they are available. In spite of this, there is little doubt about the eventual benefits that this will bring to the table, paving the way for a future in which heavy goods vehicles are all equipped with this type of technology.
In the long term, fully autonomous trucks are expected to dominate the industry, but until they do such driver aids will be a cornerstone of safer HGVs.