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Volvo Trucks makes active safety standard on most models via Bendix Wingman Fusion

Avoiding crashes offsets up-front cost of sensors, cameras and radars working together

Volvo Trucks is making advanced driver assistance features standard faster than customers are ordering them.

Truck makers are making advanced safety systems standard on new models faster than fleets are asking for them because avoiding fatal crashes saves millions of dollars that even a single death can cost.

Volvo Trucks North America (NASDAQ:VLVLY) is the latest to improve its active safety system and price it into the cost of a new truck. However, customers can choose not to buy the Volvo Active Driver Assistance (VADA) 2.0.  

“When we decided to go standard, only 25 to 28 percent of customers were ordering VADA,” Ashraf Makki, Volvo Trucks North America technology product marketing manager, told FreightWaves.

But the take rate rose to 40 percent after the decision. Makki said it should be about 55 percent for the VADA 2.0 system on the Volvo VNR and VNL models. It remains optional for the VNX model available later this year.

A ‘moral obligation’

Makki said customer education will increase the acceptance of advanced safety systems. It is a “moral obligation for everyone involved in the Class 8 system,” he said.

Trucking fatalities from crashes rose 9 percent in 2017, the most in 29 years and counter to an overall drop in roadway fatalities, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data. Preliminary figures for 2018 show an additional 3 percent increase in trucking deaths.

For those focused strictly on return on investment, higher resale values accompany trucks with advanced safety systems, Makki said. Insurance premiums can be lower for entire fleets with the systems. Individual drivers and small fleets would get less of a break.

NHTSA data places the cost of a single crash where a fatality is involved at approximately $10 million. An injury could cost $400,000 to $500,000. The price of property damage ranges from $30,000 to $50,000. The goal of advanced safety systems is zero crashes but until that is possible, reducing the physical and financial impact is the next best thing.

Crash avoidance

The first Volvo Active Driver Assist debuted in 2017. It was based on forward collision avoidance technology from Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems that helps drivers adapt and respond to changing traffic situations. The fusion of cameras and radars gives drivers the best information regarding what is going on around them.

“Continuing that partnership, we have improved the capabilities of this collision mitigation technology across the board and are confident that VADA 2.0 will further enhance safety for all motorists,” said Johan Agebrand, Volvo Trucks North America product marketing director.

The technology enables a series of driver alerts and automatic emergency braking if the driver ignores the warnings. Improvements will roll out through 2020.

Higher-speed automatic braking

Automatic Emergency Braking in VADA 2.0 works at higher speeds to automatically stop or slow the truck at up to 50 miles per hour compared with 35 mph in the current version. And it operates across multiple lanes of traffic. If the automatic emergency brakes activated at 65 mph, the truck could slow to 15 mph before an impact, Makki said.

A Volvo exclusive technology addresses inattentive and drowsy driving. If a driver ignores a lane departure warning and the system detects the truck is headed for the side of the road, the system will slow the truck by 35 mph.

The Bendix role

Volvo is among several original equipment makers working with Bendix. The Wingman Fusion system that debuted in 2015 is standard on Paccar Inc.’s (NASDAQ:PCAR) Peterbilt 579 and Kenworth T680, and the International LT Series from Navistar Inc. (NYSE:NAV), among others, said TJ Thomas, Bendix director of marketing and customer solutions for controls.

The OnGuard system from Wabco Holding Inc. (NYSE:WBC) is the other significant system in the market offering a combination of safety functions. 

Wingman Fusion is built on Bendix’s electronic stability program which has sold 700,000 systems since debuting in 2005. Over the next decade, Bendix added adaptive cruise control and radar-based pre-programmed gaps between the truck and other traffic to reduce the severity of an impact.

In 2015, Bendix got the brakes, radar and camera fused and working together. For now, Wingman Fusion meets the definition of NHTSA Level 1 driver assistance. The company is working on NHTSA Level 2 partial automation, which requires the driver to be fully engaged.

“It is one possible path,” Thomas told FreightWaves. “The market decides where technology goes. We work hand in hand at a very deep level with multiple partners.” 

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.