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Interview: Michael Thoeny, Delphi Electronic Controls

Although there are no plans to mandate autonomous emergency braking (AEB) technology in light vehicles, the fitment of AEB and lane departure warning (LDW) systems will be required in trucks and buses over 3.5t in Europe from Q4 2013, thanks to a European Commission mandate. By the end of 2015, 100% fitment will be required, and in the US, NHTSA is also considering mandating the technology in heavy trucks.

As the commercial vehicle industry prepares to meet this legislation, the role of suppliers is crucial. Megatrends spoke to Mike Thoeny, Global Engineering Director at Delphi Electronic Controls, about developments in commercial vehicle safety technology

What do you think have been the major changes in truck safety technology in recent years, and where do you think CV safety is headed over the next decade?

Delphi EU CV alert zones all viewA critical development in CV safety has been the introduction of active safety technology, enabling features such as Advanced Emergency Braking Systems (AEBS) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW). These technologies help alert drivers to potential accidents and, in the case of AEBS, can actually apply braking automatically when the driver does not react in time to prevent or lessen the impact of an accident. Looking forward, you can expect to see the addition of sensors to provide a complete 360 degrees of coverage around the vehicle enabling further collision avoidance capability, eventually including steering control in addition to braking. AEBS and LDW will become mandatory equipment in Europe for certain new commercial vehicles beginning in November 2013, and phasing in through 2015. Other countries are evaluating similar measures to increase road safety.

Furthermore, connectivity enabled by vehicle-to-vehicle [V2V] and vehicle-to-infrastructure [V2I] systems will allow vehicles to share information in real-time with each other and the network, further expanding the ’cocoon of safety’ around the vehicle from hundreds of metres to hundreds of kilometres. Looking even further, these systems will enable autonomous driving or highway platooning. Delphi is highly engaged in all of these areas, as we focus on a safe, green and connected future.

What are the main differences between light vehicle and medium/heavy commercial vehicle safety technology?

Given the significant differences in vehicle dynamics between light and heavy duty commercial vehicles, active safety systems originally developed for passenger vehicles must be adapted. We have been able to leverage Delphi’s industry-leading performance in vehicle and pedestrian collision avoidance on passenger car systems to the heavy commercial vehicle market by sharing existing radar and vision sensors, with updates to sensor algorithms for vehicle control and alerts specific to differences in dynamics. For example, longer stopping distances require earlier driver alerts and braking distances, and tracking algorithms must adapt to how truck cabs “dip” when braking as compared to passenger cars. Delphi has already secured a strategic win with a leading European commercial vehicle manufacturer that will enable the OEM to comply with the new AEBS regulation in 2013, and the level of re-use described here helped us to reduce time to market and overall system cost.

Are there any technologies that can be used in both, or that can be adapted from one for use in the other?

Absolutely. Our radar and vision-sensing technology building blocks are nearly identical for the two markets. The major difference is in the alert and vehicle control algorithms.

Delphi EU truck electronics and safety technologies

What are the main differences in truck safety technology requirements by region?

Europe and Japan are more focused on legislation to reduce road accidents, where other regions are still investigating options. Based on Delphi’s on-going safety production programs in Europe, North America, and Asia we have visibility to the communication between global entities to share findings and hopefully reach common conclusions on future requirements.

Are you seeing demand for advanced safety technology even in markets where safety standards are particularly low, or where safety regulations are implemented loosely, or not at all?

We are starting to see demand in several emerging markets for advanced safety technology, however it is clear that in markets where regulations exist, demand is increasing significantly.

What influence do fleets have on the development and fitment of particular safety technologies on trucks?

The CV market is unique and varies globally by region on the impact of fleet purchases for new technology product options. In some markets, fleet priorities are a key driver for safety related content. Fleets have a mission to optimise costs, and given the benefits of active safety systems in reducing expensive accidents and down time, they will help to stimulate demand. And fleets are already aware of the side benefit of improved fuel economy and reduced emissions when using a vehicle equipped with AEBS and adaptive cruise control. However, moving forward, the vehicle integration complexity of systems that link sensors, braking, steering, driver monitoring and alert will drive CV manufacturers to include these advanced systems as standard equipment.

As you mentioned earlier, AEB has been mandated for trucks and buses in Europe, and there are moves to mandate it in the US too. How long do you think it will be before all trucks are fitted with AEB? Do you envisage AEB being fitted on all trucks globally?

Trucks have a long service life, so the rollout of AEB and other advanced safety features globally will take time. The Europe mandates that start in 2013 for AEB – or AEBS – and LDW are clearly accelerating the market, and I expect to see other regions roll out similar requirements. It will truly have a measurable benefit on road safety.

Is the truck industry leading other sectors in terms of technology developments in any particular areas of safety?

Although active safety sensor development was driven initially by the automotive market need for high performance radar and vision systems, the CV market could be in the lead when it comes to the implementation of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure systems.

What role do you think telematics and connectivity will play in truck safety over the next decade?

Connectivity will be a major development in the coming years for both light duty and CV markets. Fleet owners and drivers will demand more information that is enabled by connectivity systems, and overall vehicle safety will be enhanced as V2V and V2I essentially extends the range of today’s radar and vision sensors to help keep CV drivers out of danger well ahead of any potential accidents. Governments are interested in this technology not just for the potential to save lives, but also to address the growing problem of highway overcrowding – as these systems lend themselves to enabling smoother traffic flow.

Do you anticipate connectivity-related safety technology to focus on vehicle-to-grid or vehicle-to-vehicle over the next decade?

I expect advances in both, although a focus on vehicle-to-vehicle will predominate in countries that will not make the significant investment for vehicle-to-grid infrastructure systems.

As safety requirements become more stringent, how will suppliers and OEMs be able to deliver technology at an affordable cost, particularly in emerging markets where total cost of ownership comes first, and where there is an emergent low-cost, or lower-cost, truck market?

Advanced safety technology product costs have come down significantly due to a relentless pursuit of cost reduction while optimising performance in real-world driving situations. Development and verification costs are also being reduced as the technology matures. Since Delphi’s first launch of vehicle radar systems in 1999, we have seen great movement down the price curve as we evolve more efficient designs and our supply base makes advances in lower cost processors and components. As volume increases, I expect this trend to continue. This will enable standard-fitment of these technologies in all markets.

Ruth Dawson

This article was first published in the Q1 2013 issue of Automotive World Megatrends Magazine. Follow this link to download the full issue