Forward collision mitigation technologies—those that detect how far and fast a vehicle in front of you is moving, and automatically apply the brakes to avoid a collision if you don’t—are rapidly advancing in the trucking industry. Good news, since forward collision avoidance systems can result in a 20% to 25% reduction in rear end fatalities and injuries. The even better news is that this number is expected to grow to 40% to 50% in the next generation of forward collision mitigation systems, and to 50% to 60% in future iterations.
Current collision mitigation technologies include antilock braking systems, stability control, lane departure warning, blind spot warning devices, interior cameras, rear view cameras, and side monitor cameras and sensors. Many of these systems rely on radar technology to provide the active safety solutions that mitigate accidents.
This summer, a new evasive maneuver assist system was revealed. The system provides tractor-trailers with the ability to autonomously steer around a stopped vehicle should the truck detect that it cannot brake quickly enough to avoid impact.
Evasive maneuver assist systems use sensors including radars, to detect a stopped vehicle and provides operators visual, audible, and tactile alerts if the truck senses an impending collision. If the driver does not take action quickly enough to avoid a crash—and the truck detects that road conditions or stopping distance prevent the system’s automated braking system from stopping the truck in time to prevent the accident—the evasive maneuver assist system will take control of the truck’s steering system to maneuver around the stopped vehicle. If the system detects that adjacent lanes are occupied, it will brake as hard as it can in an attempt to prevent the crash or at least mitigate the impact.
Operators can override the system at any time by simply taking control of the steering wheel, brakes, or throttle.
Last year, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) began considering whether new trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds should be required to be equipped with forward collision mitigation systems that incorporate warning signals with automatic emergency braking. Several highway-safety advocacy groups have petitioned the agency to require forward collision avoidance and mitigation (FCAM) systems on all commercial vehicles.
The agency noted that the “FCAM technologies of focus are the systems that combine forward collision warning (FCW) alert signals with collision mitigation braking (CMB) automatic braking capability.”
“Based on (our) research,” NHTSA stated, “the agency agrees with the petitioners that FCAM systems have the potential to save lives by preventing or reducing the severity of rear-end crashes.”
Forward collision avoidance and mitigations systems that provide forward collision alerts with collision mitigation braking are proving to meet and even exceed ROI expectations—both in terms of lives and dollars saved. Some forward collision mitigation systems reduce rear-end collisions by as much as 87%. On the occasions where the collisions cannot be avoided, the cost in damages can be up to 89% less than vehicles without a collision avoidance system due to the amount of energy that the collision mitigation system takes out of the collision.
NHTSA could decide as early as next year whether a mandate on forward collision mitigation systems for commercial vehicles greater than 10,000 pounds is necessary.
Whether or not an NHTSA mandate is issued, more and more heavy-duty fleets and traffic safety advocacy groups are shouting the praises of FCAM technologies. AAA recently gave forward collision mitigation systems in consumer automobiles their top 5-Open Star and 3-Solid Star ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that these systems could prevent 66,000 serious crashes and 879 fatal crashes per year.
AAA does stress that radar-based forward collision mitigation systems are more effective than camera-based systems, as cameras do not work as well at night and can be “blinded” by sunrise and sunset glare.
While the technologies continue to evolve, the goal remains the same: to keep people and vehicles on the road safe and free from harm.