The History Of Collision Avoidance

As you’ve likely heard, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is looking to advance new proposals regarding collision avoidance systems. In doing so they point to numbers showing that between 2009 and 2014, truck accident fatalities increased by around 5 percent annually.

They also point out that across the board, accident involving tractor-trailers continue to increase, albeit at a very low rate. This results in increases on insurance minimums and safety regulations for trucking companies. It has also resulted in the aforementioned push to get trucking companies to utilize various collision avoidance technologies.

So what can a fleet safety manager expect when spec’ing collision avoidance systems? First, consider that almost every truck manufacturer now offers some type of F-Cam product for their vehicles. Still, the vast majority of trucks on the road are not new.

In fact, only 3 percent of the more than 3 million Class 8 rigs on the road are equipped with some variation of a collision avoidance technology. As a result, trucking safety advocacy organizations began calling for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to mandate utilization of a number of different vehicle Collision Avoidance Systems.

On the other side, opponents point to the high cost of owning or installing such systems. They also question their overall reliability in a crunch. But what kind of systems are actually out there?

The Different Types

Crash avoidance technologies come in a number of different flavors. The one most widely used is the aforementioned F-CAM, which stands for Forward Collision Avoidance and Mitigation.

F-CAM technologies are generally comprised of three different primary components, which all work together to form a cohesive unit. They are essentially designed to pump the brakes in order to prevent non-ABS trailer brakes from locking up.

The different types include:

  • Forward Collision Warning: This aspect of the system creates an alarm that alerts the truck driver when he or she is getting to close to the vehicle in front of them.
  • Adaptive or Active Cruise Control: This system modulates the throttle for the truck driver and applies the brakes if it appears a collision may be likely.
  • Collision Mitigation Braking: This system automatically applies the brakes to slow the vehicle as it approaches the vehicle directly in front of it.

But what are the stats surrounding an F-CAM setup? Is it truly the most reliable? Early testing on these systems indicate they are.

It has been shown that F-CAM systems can reduce rear-end collusion fatalities and injuries by almost half. That is a huge reduction and would have an immediate bottom line impact for both motor carriers and insurance companies who carry their policies.

Also consider that truck tonnage is expected to increase by as much as 60 percent by 2040, and it isn’t hard to contemplate where these types of systems can come into play.

While for now the NHTSA is not acting on petitions, and is rather conducting continued testing, it is important to know that with the agency moving on other positions, they are likely to move on this one as well.

A History of Collision Avoidance

The fact is, this technology is not new to the scene. The first live demonstration of a collision avoidance system was performed in 1995 by a team of researchers in California.

At that time, the system was a simple radar-based technology, but since then advances in laser technology and other custom-fabricated detection technologies have reshaped both the industry and how these devices are manufactured and function.

Still, consider that these devices didn’t come to the DOT’s attention until 2013, and you can see it took nearly 20 years from this technology to go from the first test to the consumer market. What’s next for it will depend on both manufacturers and regulators.