ANN ARBOR, MI. A five-year research program conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) for the Dept. of Transportation has shown that so-called “integrated vehicle-based safety systems” (IVBSS) for heavy trucks not only help reduce certain truck-into-other-vehicle crashes, but are “generally accepted” and even embraced by commercial vehicle drivers.

The research was detailed for the media here yesterday during a “deep dive” technical seminar conducted by MeritorWabco. The 50/50 joint venture between ArvinMeritor and Wabco Vehicle Control Systems produces and markets a suite of integrated safety solutions, which are brake-control system based, to U.S. and Canadian fleets.

The results for trucking from the research were detailed by UMTRI’s Dave LeBlanc, PhD, co-principal investigator on the study. He said the lengthy project—which included a 10-month field test of the systems studied in daily truck fleet operations—aimed to develop and test the effectiveness of “integrated safety systems” in commercial trucks as well as in pass cars.

For the truck study, UMTRI zeroed in on three “systems with integrated warning strategy” to alert drivers of the potential: for a forward crash, for “lane drifting” and [unsafe] lane changes. Ten new tractors, which operated from Con-way Freight’s Detroit terminal, were upfitted with “project prototypes,” according to LeBlanc, and these detection/warning systems were radar- and camera-based. The experimental data gathered from the trucks included five video streams and GPS data.

To interface with the Con-way driver, each test tractor, was outfitted with a right- and left-side speaker facing the driver-- to announce lane drift/changes—as well a dash-mounted display and LEDs placed near each side mirror— to warn of blindspot incursions.

The trucks were piloted by 10 linehaul drivers running at night and by 8 P&D drivers operating in daylight. Linehaul miles during the t4est mounted to 526,000 and P&D to 76,000 miles.

Each driver took part in the field-testing for the full 10 months. However, for the first 2 months of the period, the IVBSS warnings were “inhibited” so a baseline could be established and the drivers could get comfortable with the new equipment being in their cabs.

LeBlanc said the results indicated a high degree of driver acceptance for the warning systems. After the test was concluded, “fifteen of the eighteen drivers said they would now prefer a truck with the integrated system to one without,” he related. “The drivers believe that the integrated systems will increase their driving safety” once they experienced driving with it.

“Drivers were generally accepting of the integrated system,” LeBlanc continued, “and reported that the lane-departure warning was the most beneficial. Linehaul and P&D drivers specifically mentioned valid forward-crash warnings and the headway-time margin display [in the cab] to be helpful.”

LeBlanc added that driver acceptance of the system might have been even higher “had there been fewer false warnings due to fixed roadside objects and overhead road structures.”

In terms of the system’s direct impact on driver performance, LeBlanc said the study found that “drivers responded more quickly too ‘closing-conflict events’ in the ‘treatment condition’ [that is, when the safety systems was ‘on’].”

He also quoted the U.S. DOT as estimating that installing IVBSS “would help to avoid 11% of truck-striking read-end crashes --13,000 of 123,000 per year.”

LeBlance also pointed out that after the study was over, “Con-way subsequently ordered 1300 Freightliner Cascadias with forward-crash warning and lane-departure warning as well as roll-stability control safety systems.”