Connectivity and autonomous driving are just two of the current buzzwords around the truck industry. Transport News Brief visited Scania’s labs in Södertälje, Sweden to find out what future developments are in store for the HGV market.
Lars-Gunnar Hedstrom is Head of Systems Development at Scania, where he has worked since 1983, overseeing the development of its Opticruise automated manual transmission.
“Working on automated gear shifting technologies from 1985 to 1990, and retarder integration up to 1993, was a fascinating journey for me,” he says. His current focus is on platooning systems, or electronically connected road trains, which is also being investigated by Mercedes-Benz and Volvo.
“The fuel savings are spectacular,” says Hedstrom, “but there are legislative and infrastructure issues that we need to overcome.”
Gains have been quantified at set distances between three R-Series tractor-trailer combinations. Scania claims a 2.2 second gap provides a 5% fuel gain, 1.5 seconds wins 7%, and 0.5 seconds brings a 10% benefit.
Senior Cognitive Engineer Dr Stas Krupenia joined Scania via the Thales defence and aerospace group, and is now aiming to revolutionise the driver’s life through the truck cab environment.
“We understand the driver’s job has become more complex and that the stresses have changed,” he says. “A lot of the physical aspect of the work has been mitigated by materials handling and other health and safety-driven innovations, but the cerebral work has increased, with huge amounts of new information available to the driver. He has to process these effectively to get the best from his vehicle, and it’s no easy task.”
One of the most dramatic innovations being developed is a head-up display (HUD) that projects vital data on to the windscreen, so the driver avoids looking down at instruments.
The HUD in Krupenia’s development cab fills most of the windscreen and at first sight looks complex. In addition to basic instrument data, it includes visual and auditory information on the proximity of surrounding vehicles, weather exports, traffic conditions and any safety alerts. It also shows a strategic display, with an overview of the entire journey with distances, times, events, topography and an interactive map. The position and progress of all surrounding traffic is also shown, and an augmented reality display highlights important information such as lane markings and obstacles.
But how would drivers take to this? According to Krupenia, they adapt well. In trials with 26 drivers split into two groups – one with the extra information from the HUD, and the other working with only conventional displays – the feedback was encouraging. Asked if it was usable, if they trusted it and if they would accept the system, nearly all said yes.
So, with advanced emergency braking systems moving so quickly from test track to legislation, how long before the HUD attracts the interest of the EU?