Trucks at Work

Of beeps and boxes, oh my …

Despite the now-immense list of recalls posted for such components as airbags, ignition switches, and fuel systems, among other components, light vehicle engineers continue to try to build a better mousetrap, so to speak (though, as those recalls indicate, more attention needs to be paid to the mousetraps already in use).

Let’s focus on Ford Motor Co. for starters and a new driver-assist system the OEM is working on in Europe that’s designed to help reduce the severity of or even eliminate some frontal collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians.

The addition of “pedestrians” to such forward-detection technology is critical because humans are obviously smaller than vehicles, thus harder for such systems to detect.

That’s why Ford’s new Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection package uses radar and camera technology together to simultaneously scan the roadway ahead and, if a collision risk with a vehicle or pedestrian is detected, provide a warning to the driver.

And if the driver does not respond in time, the system can automatically apply up to full braking force to help reduce the severity of or even eliminate some collisions.

Ford noted that its new Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection will debut on the 2015 Ford Mondeo in Europe this year, eventually rolling out to other Ford and Lincoln products worldwide.

Scott Lindstrom, Ford’s manager, of driver assist technologies, said the OEM’s engineers tested this system on closed test tracks using rigs fitted with manikins to replicate pedestrians – then spent months refining the technology on roads around the world to test system reliability.

“This real-world testing was an important part of the development, because pedestrians in an urban setting can present a wide range of potential situations,” he added. “We covered more than 300,000 miles on three continents that included a wide range of settings and situations.”

Lindstrom also stressed that while this new detection system may be especially helpful in unexpected situations, it does not replace the driver and has limitations especially at night, in low and harsh lighting conditions, when vehicles are moving in different directions, and in some weather conditions.

That’s stuff at what I’d call the “high end” of the light vehicle design spectrum. Yet even the basic acreage on light vehicles today – especially where pickups are concerned – is being re-tooled for greater efficiency.

Take Ford’s patented BoxLink system that’s debuting on its new 2015 model F-150 (the one with the aluminum body).

Along with light emitting diode (LED) box lights, a power locking and remote tailgate release, and cargo ramps, the BoxLink package is designed to help manage loads more efficiently.

BoxLink includes four lockable, die-cast zinc tie-down cleats, and provides a unique interface to the box for improved flexibility and organization, as well as additional locations for tie-downs, noted Alana Strager, Ford program management analyst and co-inventor of the BoxLink system.

“Rooted in the shape of the horse-drawn cart, the pickup truck box has been a standard, relatively unchanged fixture for nearly a century,” she explained.

“The industry’s acceptance of this shape meant any innovations we developed couldn’t alter the box,” Strager added. “Rather, we needed to enhance and evolve its flexibility and modularity to create infinitely customizable solutions for hauling cargo.”

Adrian Aguirre, a Ford engineer and the other co-inventor of BoxLink, said this new design emanated from customers as they told the OEM’s researchers they wanted a way to tailor cargo-securement features of the pickup box to meet an ever-shifting variety of loads and applications.

Thus loads can be secured to the BoxLink cleats in four locations, or hooked directly to the BoxLink “interface plate” with a bungee cord, S-hook or E-track fitting.

“BoxLink adds four additional tie-down locations in the box to complement the four fixed tie-down hooks carried over from the previous model, for a total of eight,” Aguirre noted.

“Additionally, BoxLink is located on a reinforced area of the box at mid-level – accommodating the majority of cargo loads,” Aguirre pointed out. Reinforcement of the cleats allows them to accommodate a horizontal or cross-box load of 275 pounds and a diagonal load of 600 pounds.”

In sum, marrying high-end safety systems with re-designed cargo-hauling convenience means work fleets can get light vehicles straight from the factory equipped with what they need to get various jobs done – without an upfitter taking a time-consuming interim step cutting into a finished vehicle to install such accoutrements.

Of course it’s the market that will ultimately decide if the product enhancements like the ones Ford is offering will be purchased. That’s always the key metric at the end of the day – dollars on the table. We’ll see what that table looks like in the coming months.

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