Autonomous tractor-trailer steering and braking system unveiled

Accidents involving semi-tractor trailers are a common occurrence on West Virginia highways, and many of these crashes happen when truck drivers find themselves in an emergency situation and do not have enough time to weigh their options and take evasive action. Computers are able to process information and make decisions much more quickly than the human brain, and truck parts makers the ZF Group and WABCO Vehicle Control Systems unveiled an autonomous crash avoidance system for tractor-trailers on June 28 that they hope will save lives by preventing rear-end collisions.

The Evasive Maneuver Assist system combines WABCO's OnGuard autonomous braking system, which has been available in the United States for several years, with ZF's ReAX steering technology. ZF's CEO said in a statement that the system should be made available to U.S. truck operators in three or four years.

The system uses a sensor and radar array to monitor road conditions and take over a semi-tractor trailer's steering when a disabled or slow moving vehicle is detected and a collision seems imminent. If the truck is not able to steer safely past the obstruction due to vehicle congestion in adjacent lanes or the presence of a guardrail or barrier, the brakes are applied fully to reduce speed and lessen the severity of the impact.

Rear-end collisions involving large and heavy commercial trucks can be catastrophic, and they are often caused by a mechanical failure of some sort or by distracted or impaired truck drivers. The data recorded by autonomous vehicle systems can help to establish what transpired in the moments before an accident, and personal injury attorneys seeking compensation for truck accident victims may find this information useful when truck drivers refuse to take responsibility for their actions or mechanical inspections fail to identify the causes of a crash.

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