Road Giants Given the Gentle Touch

| Transport

Safety technology development is resulting in safer roads across Europe

Mercedes continues to deliver the latest safety technology to make its large trucks and buses safer for other road users

The vision of an accident-free future on the roads is one that’s embraced by international organisations such as the UN, Governments and vehicle manufacturers. The main car makers have their own strategies, some of which are at an advanced level with cars already on the road with a certain level of autonomy as well as advanced driver assist systems and the latest passive safety mechanisms to protect the vehicle’s occupants as well as other road users.

The international new car assessment programme (NCAP) organisations have long been evaluating the crash-worthiness of passenger cars as well as their levels of driver assistance and Euro NCAP has recently been promoting its latest step to place more focus on the assessment of heavy goods vehicles.

Daimler Truck, the maker of Mercedes-Benz heavy vehicles, has been active in improving the safety of its vehicles for over 40 years, having been the first manufacturer to introduce the anti-lock braking system ABS for trucks as early as 1981.

Now, its range of trucks and buses are equipped with the latest enhancements in safety technology as the company travels along its path towards vision zero with the objective of equipping at least 75 percent of the vehicles delivered in its core markets in 2025 and at least 80 percent in 2030 with a safety system that surpasses legal requirements in terms of scope and performance.

Integrated Safety

Commercial vehicle accident research by the company plays a central role in development at Daimler Truck. With its accident analysis, it has been preparing the fundamentals for continually incorporating further optimisation measures into the vehicles since 1972. And always in accordance with the comprehensive Integral Safety concept. The passive and active safety systems installed in the vehicle can then provide support in four phases: first while driving, secondly in the event of danger, thirdly in the event of an accident and fourthly after a collision.

This approach to analysis, development and integration has led to a number of progressive innovations over the years including the anti-slip control ASR in the late 80s followed by the introduction of the EBS electronic brake system on the first Actros in 1996. Proximity Control Assist and Lane Assistant followed in 2000 and in 2001 the Electronic Stability Program ESP was introduced for trucks and a hill holder as a starting-off aid and Brake Assist came in 2002, setting a trend for continuous safety systems development up to the present day.

Active Brake Assist

The currently available fifth generation of the emergency brake assist (ABA 5) uses a combination of a radar system and a camera system, which detect the risk of an accident with a vehicle ahead, a stationary obstacle, or a pedestrian who is crossing the road, coming toward the truck or walking in the lane ahead. A visual and audible warning are made to the driver with the system initiating partial braking as a second step. If a collision is still imminent, the ABA 5 can carry out an automated maximum full-stop braking for moving persons up to a vehicle speed of 50 km/h. Finally, the new electronic parking brake is automatically engaged when the vehicle is at a standstill.

Sideguard Assist

Sideguard Assist can help prevent accidents with pedestrians and cyclists. Since 2019, it has also been available as a retrofit for numerous models. In June 2021, Daimler Truck was the first manufacturer to launch Active Sideguard Assist (ASGA). This innovative system is not only able to warn the driver of moving cyclists, e-scooters or pedestrians on the front passenger side, but also to initiate automated braking to a standstill up to a turning speed of 20 km/h if the driver fails to react appropriately to the acoustic and visual warning. ASGA can recognize the need for this braking intervention and ideally prevent a potential collision.

Second Generation MirrorCam

For the visual warnings, sideguard Assist S1R and the ASGA use the display of the MirrorCam installed instead of the conventional main and wide-angle mirrors. The second generation of the mirror camera system has been in use since April 2022 and can provide the driver with even better support in many situations thanks to shorter camera arms and new image parameters. One of the benefits of shortening the camera arms is that the drivers can now reverse in a straight line more easily than was the case with the first generation. This is because the MirrorCam’s perspective more closely resembles that of a conventional glass mirror.

Improved colour and brightness matching within the camera system means that the displays can depict the area relevant to the driving situation more precisely, eg, when reversing into a dark or poorly lit area. Thanks to its supportive effect, the enhanced MirrorCam system can now assist in managing situations such as passing, manoeuvring, driving in poor visibility and darkness, cornering, and passing narrow spaces more safely and without stress.

Partially automated driving

Active Drive Assist (ADA) has been available since 2018 and allows partially automated driving (Level 2). Under certain conditions, the system actively supports the driver with longitudinal and lateral guidance and can automatically help maintain its distance, accelerate as well as steer, provided that the necessary system conditions are met, such as a sufficient curve radius or clearly visible lane markings. If the driver approaches a vehicle ahead too closely, ADA can autonomously brake the truck to maintain the set distance to the vehicle ahead. Once the distance from the vehicle ahead is adequate, the system can accelerate the truck back to the set speed.

The latest generation (ADA 2) has an emergency stop function and can initiate an emergency stop when it detects that the driver during the trip is no longer actively driving, for example, owing to a health problem. Once the truck comes to a standstill, the system can automatically engage the new electronic parking brake. The doors are also unlocked, so that paramedics or other first responders can obtain direct access to the driver in the event of a medical emergency.

Lane Keep Assistance

To ensure that a brief moment of inattentiveness has as little consequence as possible, the Lane Keeping Assist warns the driver of an impending departure from their marked lane by means of an acoustic and a visual signal with a warning message in the display. For this purpose, a digital camera constantly monitors the road in front of the truck and can detect dangerous deviations from keeping in lane when the roadway is marked.

An important function in this context is also provided by Attention Assist, which is almost always automatically incorporated in vehicles over 18 tons with Lane Keeping Assist installed. The system continuously monitors the driver’s attentiveness based on various parameters, even when Lane Keeping Assist is deactivated. Attention Assist can detect typical steering manoeuvres by the driver when their concentration on safely driving the vehicle is diminishing and, after reaching a critical limit, requests visually and acoustically that the driver takes a break. Attention Assist is active as of a speed of approximately 60 km/h. If Lane Keeping Assist has been deactivated, it is automatically switched on again with the warning.

Stability and Roll Control

Stability Control and Trailer Stability Control are two active safety systems for reducing the risk of skidding of the towing vehicle as well as tractor/trailer combinations, in particular during cornering or evasive manoeuvres. When the vehicle tends to understeer or oversteer when cornering, the brake forces at each individual wheel are specifically controlled. In addition, the engine output is reduced and the articulated combination is prevented from jack-knifing by braking the trailer in a controlled manner at the same time, even if it is still fitted with a conventional pneumatic brake system.

The active stability control system also recognises at an early stage if the trailer is likely to tip over. If the trailer reaches the tipping limit unnoticed by the driver on long curves or during fast lane changes, the speed is automatically reduced until full driving stability is achieved again. This significantly reduces the risk of tipping over as far as physically possible.

Roll Control is also used to secure the driver and vehicle. The system variably and automatically adjusts the damping hardness to the respective driving situation and road surface condition. Sensors detect the vertical movements at the front and rear axle, the brake pressure, the load condition, the accelerator pedal movements and the speed. These values are recorded and evaluated by the central control electronics and transmitted as control signals to the shock absorbers equipped with an electrically controllable valve.

Visibility Improvement

Other systems have been developed to assist the driver including Traffic Sign Assist, which helps the driver recognise certain traffic signs in real time and displays up to two of them in the instrument cluster. In addition to speed limits and passing restrictions, the system also recognizes warning signs.

Highbeam Assist improves visibility by automatically switching the high beam on or off depending on the traffic, so that optimum illumination of the roadway can always be ensured. In this context, components such as the LED main headlamps, tail lights and daytime running lights as well as the automatic high/low beam and cornering lights also play an important role.

Jonathan Newell
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