With national and international aims to reduce accidents to zero within the next 30 years, there is a focus on truck safety, but the manufacturers are rising to the challenge and continuing to bring new safety innovations to the market.
Each year, more than 2,000 people are killed or seriously injured on London’s streets, according to statistics from the Office of the London Mayor. But by 2041, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wants to see this reduced to zero through the Vision Zero strategy.
The Vision Zero strategy aims to see a revolution in transport in the capital, with a reduction in danger at the heart of everything. Part of this is the Direct Vision Standard, which was introduced earlier this year and requires all HGVs to conform to certain standards of vision or face a fine.
Other plans like this have been devised, for instance the European Union also has a Vision Zero plan to reduce incidents to as close to zero as possible by 2050.
Commercial vehicles will play a key part in this and manufacturers, while they have always sought to enhance the safety of their vehicles, right back to the dawn of motor transport about 125 years ago, are putting plenty of resources into researching and developing new safety aids.
For example, the DAF XF, XG and XG+ have achieved enhanced direct vision, as UK marketing manager Phil Moon explains. “The revised EU Masses & Dimensions Regulations have enabled a freedom to introduce a whole new cab which brings with it, along with improved aerodynamics and enhanced driver space and comfort, larger window areas, a lower belt line, revised mirrors, optional passenger door kerb-view window and the DAF Digital Vision System,“ he says. “This provides the driver with a more complete view of the areas around the cab which contributes significantly to helping protect vulnerable road users.
“The improved direct vision achieved by the New Generation DAF is a key starting point in improving safety in all areas including urban.”
DAF has also introduced the optional DAF Corner View system, which effectively replaces the traditional kerb-view close proximity mirror and the front view mirror with a single camera and monitor, Moon adds. “The single monitor is positioned on the A-pillar where it is much easier to scan than the two mirrors it replaces, and the single view is much larger, eliminating any blind spot.”
One of the biggest advances in truck safety in recent years has been advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). ADAS has been mandatory in new trucks since this year, but many of these technologies were already largely available prior to this.
“The General Safety Regulation already made mandatory a number of ADAS systems designed to improve the safety of HGVs,” says Moon. “These include Advanced Emergency Braking, Land Departure Warning and Vehicle Stability Control. There are set to be more systems made mandatory over the coming years, many of which will focus on protecting more vulnerable road users. One of the first requirements will be for so-called Moving Office Information Systems (MOIS) which will alert the driver if cyclists or pedestrians are in a danger zone near to the vehicle when about to move off.”
Moon adds that MOIS regulations, which will be mandatory on new vehicles registered from 2024, will further enhance safety in urban driving. “Although it is worth noting that many operators are already specifying such sensor systems as an optional extra on their current fleets,” he adds.
Moon adds that safety innovation is increasingly focusing on sensing and predictive technologies. “Some of the technologies already used in, for instance, Advanced Emergency Braking, are a pathway towards more advanced systems that can intervene to prevent collisions and ultimately take control of the vehicle, but any steps towards fully automated on road driving will need to be taken carefully to ensure public support,” he says.
A step on the path towards automation has been taken by Mercedes-Benz, which has developed Active Drive Assist (ADA), which the company says represents a step forward in terms of safety and makes the new Actros the world’s first series truck to be capable of partially automated driving (SAE level 2).
“Under certain preconditions it actively supports the driver in the longitudinal and lateral guidance of the truck and can automatically maintain the distance to the vehicle ahead, accelerate and also steer if the necessary system conditions such as sufficient curve radius or clearly visible road markings are met,” says a spokesperson for Mercedes-Benz. “If the driver comes too close to a vehicle in front, ADA can automatically brake the truck until the pre-determined minimum distance has been re-established. Once that is the case, the system can then re-accelerate the truck up to the pre-determined speed.”
In June 2021, Mercedes-Benz launched ADA 2, which does even more. “This system is capable of initiating an emergency stop if it recognises that the driver has not been actively involved in the driving process for a longer period of time, e.g. due to health problems,” the spokesperson explains. “First the system requests the driver via optical and acoustic signals to place his or her hands on the wheel. But if he or she does not respond after 60 seconds, even after multiple warnings, by responding e.g. with braking, steering, accelerating or operating the vehicle systems via the buttons on the steering wheel, within its limits the system can brake until the truck safely comes to a standstill within its lane while warning the following vehicles using the hazard lights. The emergency stop manoeuvre initiated by the system can be stopped by using a kick-down at any time.
“If the truck comes to a standstill, the system can automatically engage the new electronic parking brake. In addition, the doors are unlocked so that paramedics and other first responders can directly reach the driver in case of a medical emergency.
“In short, ADA2 has all the functionality of the original system with the important addition of moderately braking the vehicle to a standstill within its lane, if the vehicle detects no driver interaction (hands on the wheel) for 60 seconds.”
Mercedes-Benz has also introduced Sideguard Assist, which was made available for right-hand-drive Actros and Arocs from June 2021 production. “This alerts the driver to the presence of a vulnerable road user or obstruction on the passenger side of the truck when the driver makes a turn,” says the spokesperson. “A visual warning indicator is displayed on the MirrorCam screen, and audible warnings sound throughout the cabin. In right-hand-drive trucks, Sideguard Assist will protect pedestrians, cyclists or other road users down the left side of the vehicle, when making a left turn or conducting a lane change on the motorway.
“In addition, Mercedes-Benz Trucks has announced Active Sideguard Assist. Currently available for left-hand-drive Actros and Arocs, Active Sideguard Assist doesn’t just alert the driver via visual and audible warnings, but it also applies the brakes to prevent an accident.”
Other driver aids can also help to reduce the likelihood of accidents. For instance, when MAN launched its new generation trucks in 2020 it included ACC [adaptive cruise control] Stop&Go, which maintains the correct safe distance from the vehicle in front, even at speeds from 0-15km/h.
ACC Stop&Go independently brakes the truck behind the vehicle in front of it – if necessary until it is stationary. If the stop lasts less than two seconds, the truck will automatically move off again. If the stop lasts longer than two seconds, the driver moves off again by pressing the accelerator.
The system eases the strain on the driver in heavy traffic, meaning they can navigate traffic jams with less effort, thereby mitigating typical situations which have the potential to lead to vehicle body damage. Additionally, the system prevents unnecessary braking and accelerating, thereby reducing wear on the brakes and fuel consumption while driving.
In addition, there is congestion assistant, which is an expansion of ACC Stop&Go, designed to increase driver comfort; it can be activated at speeds of up to 40km/h. In applicable situations on the motorway, it controls the driveline, brakes and steering independently, decelerates the vehicle behind a braking vehicle – to a standstill if necessary – and then sets the vehicle in motion again of its own accord. The navigation system maps ensure that the system is only available on motorways. It remains active up to a speed of 60km/h.
Another device that can help to improve safety is smart devices such as Amazon’s Alexa. First introduced by Iveco at the end of 2020, the voice service enables drivers to vocally manage their route planning, check the vehicle’s maintenance and health status, and request driving tips. The voice service can also operate cab controls, allowing drivers to remain focused on the road, increasing traffic safety.
Fabrizio Conicella, digital lead at Iveco, said the voice service underpins Iveco’s digital strategy as it strives to offer a completely new way for drivers to perform their tasks in an interactive way while raising the level of safety and comfort.”
Manufacturers are looking all over the truck to enhance safety. For instance, when Renault Trucks upgraded its truck range it fitted the T, T High and C on-road models with 5 Cell LED front lamps as standard with daytime running, main beam, fog and indicator functions.
Renault Trucks say that the new wraparound design improves side visibility and safety. as it is closer to natural light, LED light gives drivers a better perception of contrasts and colours, and with light output that is three times that of standard lights, night-time visibility and therefore safety is significantly improved.
Additional LED lights have also been positioned on the inside of the doors to illuminate the door sill for increased driver safety when getting in and out of the vehicle at night.
Another safety innovation was recently introduced by Volvo trucks for its electric trucks – an acoustic alert system with unique sounds. The alert – designed to be pleasant and unobtrusive, both for the driver and others close by, according to Volvo – will increase safety by making pedestrians, cyclists and other road users aware of approaching trucks, which would otherwise be nearly silent.
Since July 2021, all new electric vehicles in the UK have been required to emit a certain sound level when travelling at speeds below 12mph. The sound level required depends on the speed and gets higher as it increases. At 12mph it should be at least 56 decibels. If the vehicle is too quiet, an external acoustic vehicle alerting system must be added.
The range of sounds are the result of thorough research and testing by Volvo’s own acoustics experts and will ensure the electric models are still much quieter than conventional trucks.
Volvo’s acoustic alert system comprises four different sounds, informing people close by about what the truck is doing: moving forward, idling, reversing, etc. The sounds vary in intensity, based on truck speed and will in frequency during acceleration and deceleration.
More to come
Phil Rootham, pre-sales technical manager at Scania, believes that some of the more significant safety innovations in the past two to three years have been Advanced Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning in combination with Active Steering and Blind Spot Warning.
He believes that safety devices will continue to evolve in the coming years. “As legal demands evolve and the ADAS systems available today will become more standard in their adoption, new technology will continue to come to market and there will be refinements of the current systems,” he says.
“Active systems will develop and a broader integration to move from passive warning systems to systems that actively drive vehicle functions, braking, steering to aid the driver in making good choices; active systems support the driver by often taking the first steps in preventative actions.
“Vehicle manufacturers will continue to develop solutions driven my customer and legal demands, we look for technical improvements that add value to customers and society so we will play a significant part in the wider objectives, but there are also influences from infrastructure, as well as the wider society influence.”