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Accident Avoidance System for Big Rigs Unveiled

Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook

Electronic accident avoidance systems that steer a vehicle or apply its brakes automatically when a collisions seems inevitable are already available on several passenger vehicles sold in California and around the country, and semi-tractor trailers will soon have access to similar technology thanks to the efforts of WABCO Vehicle Control Systems and the ZF Group. The two truck component suppliers unveiled their Evasive Maneuver Assist system on June 28.

The EMA system is designed to reduce rear-end collisions by steering tractor-trailers around stopped or slow-moving vehicles when the technology determines that applying the brakes would not stop the truck in time. If the system is unable to steer around the obstruction because vehicles are in adjacent lanes, the truck's brakes are applied instead to reduce the severity of the collision.

An active braking system from WABCO called OnGuard has available to U.S. truck operators for a number of years, but the EMA technology pairs OnGuard with the ReAX steering system developed in Germany by ZF. The technology uses radar to monitor the road ahead for obstructions, and truck drivers are provided with audio, visual and touch warnings when the system senses that a collision is likely. A senior ZF executive said that it will likely be between three and four years before the EMA system is ready to be deployed.

Rear-end collisions involving semi-tractor trailers often cause catastrophic injuries that sometimes prove fatal, and any technology that has the potential to save lives should be welcomed. Another benefit of this type of technology is that it often records data that can help accident investigators and insurance companies working to determine what happened in the seconds before a crash. This data could also be useful to personal injury attorneys who are seeking compensation on behalf of accident victims. Data recorders could reveal a truck defect of some sort or show that the driver was speeding or otherwise negligent.