Photo: Volvo Trucks North America
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Avoiding confusion between advanced safety systems

Aug. 17, 2018
The need to deliver critical information quickly and accurately to drivers can become more complicated if drivers are frequently moving among vehicles.

If there is any potential drawback of advanced safety technology, it could be if drivers get confused by differences among different systems.

David Smith, manager of Daimler Truck North America's automated truck research and development center, said the need to deliver critical information quickly and accurately to drivers can become more complicated if drivers are frequently moving between vehicles.

Fred Andersky, director of customer solutions and marketing controls with Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC, said there has been an increased focus on the "human-machine interface" across the commercial vehicle industry.

A holder of a commercial driver's license, Andersky said he has experienced his own confusion during test drives when using technologies he is not as familiar with.

Jon Morrison, WABCO's president of the Americas, said his company works with truck makers to continually improve dash displays and create more standardization.

"We come a long way to help with that process," he said.

Jim Nachtman, Navistar's heavy-duty product marketing director, said the systems are getting easier to use. He noted Navistar strives to create the same experience across its lineup of heavy- and medium-duty trucks.

And while there are differences among various systems across the industry, Nacthman believes "at the end of the day, the driver experience will be improved."

As fleets begin to incorporate technologies, WABCO's Buffy Wilkerson said they should send the message that it is "here to stay and designed to assist you." He stressed the importance of consistent training across a fleet when new systems are introduced.

One way fleets with operations across the country can accomplish this is through training videos that drivers can watch individually from their cab. A phased-in approach can further ease the process by addressing the initial struggles as it is rolled out.

Beyond product consistency, there is an emphasis on improving the instrument cluster.

Deborah D. Thompson, advanced technology lead of human factors at Volvo Group, said when there is a "safety-critical event, we want the driver's eyes on the road." The result is a focus on the development of heads-up displays, with a focus on the most important safety information. Even within a system, there should be "a hierarchy in terms of classification," she said.

Greater reliance on artificial intelligence will be incorporated to the displays in the coming years, she predicted. "AI could be looked upon as my personal assistant," Thompson continued. "It gives you notifications when you need them and monitoring in the event you are not paying close enough attention." Looking ahead, Navistar's Nachtman said there needs to be improvements so systems can better pick up road marking if there is worn out paint, as well as the recognition of a larger number of street signs.

Requiring stops by recognizing railroad crossing signs is an example of how these systems could one day mature, he said. Even as safety improvement and the move toward greater automation takes hold in the coming years, Andersky recommended fleets not get too enamored with what may come in the future, as "opposed to taking advantage of what is here now."

About the Author

Neil Abt

Neil Abt, editorial director at Fleet Owner, is a veteran journalist with over 20 years of reporting experience, including 15 years spent covering the trucking industry. A graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., he began his career covering sports for The Washington Post newspaper, followed by a position in the newsroom of America Online (AOL) and then both reporting and leadership roles at Transport Topics. Abt is based out of Portland, Oregon.

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