The highly sophisticated technology we fit on our trucks and trailers today has come a long way in the last twenty years, but with the need for ever more efficient and safe road transport, there is much further to go, when it comes to the level of sophistication needed in the decades to come.
“We need to be able to provide the right solutions at the right time, which are then still cost effective enough so that we can also really sell that to our customers,” says Stefan Pahl, Director Application Engineering and Technical Sales Knorr Bremse. “If we were to just simply double the braking system, it will probably also be a kind of a redundancy. It would be very good and we would make a lot of money for us, but no one would accept that.
“We need to have some kind of clever architecture in place, and it is a fascinating topic that we’re working on at the moment. Partial failure modes, and stuff like that, will be an important part of the development. If we have one critical error, there’s a red warning lamp and the driver would need to stop.
“In the future, we will have to have the possibility to switch from a primary system to a secondary system, and then the driver will not even realise that it has happened. They will get a certain notification, that they’ve gone over to the backup, but the backup system will still provide the same performance.”
If a failure occurs the system will just move on to the next layer of redundancy and the vehicle will perform as normal. The back-up will still provide the same functionality, the same performance, so the vehicle can continue on its route unhindered.
This is unlike the current situation with some electronic systems, where they simply go into limp home mode if there is an issue. The vehicle’s driver will not notice any difference as one system fails in some way, the back-up kicks in seamlessly. If the second layer of redundancy has an issue there will be a third layer to back-up any failure.
“In the second redundant layer, there will be certain performance deficiencies within the system, but the performance also be acceptable and safe,” says Stefan. “It may be like a limp home mode, but maybe, the depending on the criticality, it can just still perform a certain kind of minimal risk manoeuvre. It may be able to park the trailer in a safe spot get the vehicle combination out of the way so that it doesn’t affect the flow of traffic.”
Armed with this knowledge the team at Knorr Bremse is already building an architecture which will be able to cope with these new and expected developments. As a system is developed it already has the capacity to handle tasks and functionality which are yet to become available. When new systems come to fruition it will not necessarily be a hardware update but may be a software update.
“Changes in the future may also need additional hardware, if you if you think about the communication between truck and trailer,”says Stefan. “We will definitely need to have a different type of connection, which will also provide a certain type of redundancy, but also a much higher speed interaction.
“We’re convinced that due to certain manoeuvres that can easily happen on a day to day basis on motorways, that you also need to have some kind of real perception behind the trailer. Something like long range radar, maybe also combined with a short range radar, so that you can also detect what’s going on behind the trailer.
“Especially when you come to certain yard manoeuvring issues. When you have a certain angle between the truck and the trailer, there will be a big blind spot behind the trailer, and the environment perception of the truck alone will not be able to get a real overview.”