The future of truck technology

Nov. 19, 2008
NEW YORK. Relieving traffic congestion and improving vehicle safety are the common themes for a wide variety of advanced technologies on display and under discussion here at the 15th World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems

NEW YORK. Relieving traffic congestion and improving vehicle safety are the common themes for a wide variety of advanced technologies on display and under discussion here at the 15th World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems. Closing down one of Manhattan’s busy avenues for demonstrations of the latest vehicle safety and control systems, the four-day meeting has drawn thousands from international government agencies, suppliers and research facilities, including a significant number focusing on commercial vehicles or issues impacting the movement of freight.

Congestion pricing received a strong endorsement from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) during a congress session outlining activities by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation. Talking about FHWA’s interest in “integrated corridor management” to address regional traffic problems, Jeffrey Lindley, the Assoc. Administrator for FHWA’s Office of Operations, said: “Congestion pricing is part of this and the only way we can make a significant reduction in congestion.”

While the ITS host city of New York turned down federal funds for a congestion pricing project, Lindley said FHWA will spend $1 billion by 2010 to demonstrate the concept in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Looking specifically at the impact of congestion on freight movement, Lindley said the administration sees intelligent transportation systems playing a major role with advanced electronic freight management systems and initiatives to increase truck-parking access. “Freight issues, I believe, are not going away, and freight needs to be a major part of (federal highway fund) reauthorization,” he said.

A technology-based approach called Integrated Vehicle-Based Safety Systems (IVBSS) will be high on the list of priorities for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), according to Rose McMurray, Asst. Administrator and Chief Safety Officer for the federal regulator. The advanced safety technology combines lane departure warning, forward collision warning and blind-spot monitoring into a single system, eliminating distracting and competing warning signals for drivers. The administration will begin a field test of IVBSS in both heavy trucks and passenger vehicles next year, McMurray told the congress.

Volvo Group North America was on the show floor at the congress showing off its approach to IVBSS with the Volvo Integrated Safety Truck (IST). The truck, a European FH model tractor, uses active steering control to keep the vehicle in its lane and to help avoid blind-side collisions in lane changes, as well as providing object detection alerts and rollover warning.

Nissan Motor, which plans to introduce a mid-range commercial truck line to the U.S. early next year, gave ITS Congress attendees a look at its IVBSS development project. In addition to lane departure warning, the Nissan system – installed in an Infiniti SUV – included active braking tied to forward and rearward object detection as well as a variety of warning systems based on two-way “cooperative” communications between the vehicle, roadside signals and other nearby vehicles.

Looking for ways to encourage truck fleets to adopt such advanced safety systems, McMurray said that FMCSA would look at including tax incentives for safety technology investment in the upcoming highway reauthorization bill.

McMurray also told the group that federal safety regulators would continue looking at advanced technical solutions for truck-safety enforcement. A Volvo VT 880 tractor on the show floor displayed new “Trusted Truck” technology that would allow heavy vehicle to bypass roadside inspections. Expected to begin demonstration projects next year, the project uses truck sensors and real-time two-way wireless communications to provide roadside officers with vehicle safety information as the truck approaches the inspection site. An onboard screen then instructs the driver to either bypass the inspection if there are no problems or to pull over. The Volvo system also automatically alerts fleet management if the truck is stopped, providing data on the detected vehicle problems.

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