At the IAA Nutzfahrzeuge trade show for commercial vehicles in Hannover, safety electronics and assistants currently take center stage. In parallel with the passenger car technology, the trucks also are increasingly equipped with little electronic helpers for lane keeping, or for braking, to name just an example. For these huge, clumsy vehicles, emergency braking can be quite a difficult thing with heavy freight in their loading area, a high center of gravity and in many cases even with a trailer it even can end up in a really terrible situation. For this reason, an electronic helper such as an ABS or an ESP is more than just a comfort feature, it literally saves lives.
Actually, for us, used to look only to the electronic equipment in small cars, it is quite interesting to see that in trucks, the technology is by no means behind. While according to what I hear from truck manufacturers price pressure is as high as it is in the passenger car market, in the much higher price for trucks some electronic feats are easier to integrate. These vehicles today are stuffed with electronics even to a higher degree than small cars. It starts with sophisticated fuel injection and exhaust gas optimization systems and continues with the abovementioned ABS and ESP; I even heard of ESP for trailers which certainly is an excellent idea given their problematic road holding.
Telematics are another big thing for trucks. In comparison to passenger cars where telematics just means navigation and a little bit of traffic information, trucks intensively use telematics. Fleet management is a major business software application in transport companies, and without satellite-based localization systems and automated two-way data communications, fleet management would not thinkable. These applications turn trucks into rolling telecommunications centers.
The latest cry in truck electronics now are assistants. The spectrum of possible assistants is quite similar to what we know from small vehicles lane departure warning, distance warning etc. For trucks however, one type of assistant has now been displayed which is not even thinkable in passenger trucks, but since it can save lives it is an obvious application for trucks: A turn assistant. One of the most dangerous situations, not for the truck driver but for pedestrians and bicyclists is when the truck turns right or left and on a street with sidewalk and / or bike lane. Here in Munich alone, almost every month the traffic police reports casualties because they were at the wrong place during this moment.
Hitherto, truck vendors tried to solve the problem by equipping their vehicles with mirrors by the score. This measure did not improve the accident statistics; obviously the many mirrors had more of a confusing effect to the driver. Now at least one vendor shows a blind spot detection for trucks aiming at preventing this type of accidents. It is based on simple, proven ultrasound technology. Indeed an obvious idea. Sometimes, one wonders why it took so long to develop such an assistant. After all, it is not rocket science.