Cruise control adaptation

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The accuracy of the road slope information … enables our RunSmart Predictive Cruise to ease the burden on the truck’s engine when traversing challenging terrain.” –Elmar Boeckenhoff, vice president of truck product engineering, Daimler Trucks North America

Here’s a neat idea that’s going to become reality later this year – feeding real-time road terrain information gathered via global positioning systems (GPS) and digital maps into the cruise control on a tractor-trailer. That way, the cruise control can proactively adjust a big rig’s speed to climb a hill or descend a steep grade, giving it better control of the vehicle while saving on ever more costly diesel.

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Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) is making just such a system available on its Freightliner Cascadia Class 8 tractor in the third quarter this year – technology called “RunSmart Predictive Cruise” that imports GPS data alongside mapping information provided by NAVTEQ that can then size up upcoming changes in road terrain and adjusts the throttle accordingly, resulting in fuel savings, according to Elmar Boeckenhoff, DTNA’s vice president of truck product engineering (pictured at right).

NAVTEQ’s digital maps contain millions of miles of road networks – including precise road coordinates, information on the direction of travel and slope data for over 200,000 miles of highway throughout the contiguous U.S. “This application shows first-hand how attributes collected by our geographic analysts can drive innovation and create intelligent applications,” said Bob Denaro, vice president of NAVTEQ’s advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) group.

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“By tapping into the power of ADAS, Daimler Trucks is leveraging data and technology to drive down fuel consumption to benefit both the physical and fiscal environments,” he said.

No, for sure, there are going to glitches to work out – and as MANY readers continue to rightly point out, this kind of cruise control technology can NEVER adequately replace the need for skilled human hands at the wheel. But with a professional driver at the wheel, this kind of “predictive” cruise control could potentially help fleets accrue fuel savings over time – and knowing how expensive diesel is getting, that could add up to a lot of bucks back in the wallet.

Once we start seeing some real-world results gathered on this technology later this year, then we’ll know if it’ll make a good fit for the U.S. over-the-road trucking market.

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