Electronic braking systems are making their way throughout the United States after 20 years in Europe.
EBS braking uses electronic control by calculating actions needed for brake management when a driver applies the brakes. The brake valve is replaced by a signal transmitter, which sends a signal to the control, which finally signals each axle group about braking needs.
Because traditional pneumatic systems are still enacted with EBS, compressed air is used to apply the brakes. This means that if an electric failure should occur, the brakes still work properly.
EBS will most likely be widespread within the next few years, according to Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems. Bendix’s director of electronic brake and chassis control, Mike Tober, says the technology has been tested here for the past couple of years, although Bendix has yet to obtain any truck manufacturer clients using EBS in the U.S.
The system will begin supporting driver-assist technology in a larger capacity than ever before, and will make huge strides in the commercial vehicle market, especially among electric trucks. According to Wabco, one of the brake suppliers working with this quickly-progressing technology, “island applications” are in use throughout the country among vehicles without trailers and those with 24-volt architecture.
“Within three to five years, we see EBS coming to the U.S. in larger scale,” said Wabco’s innovation and technology officer, Thomas Dieckmann.
However, the technology is already being used in some buses.
Not everyone believes EBS will become commonplace quickly, though. Jack Legler, American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council technical director says there is still a long way to go. For example, the technology still needs to see certain track testing, prototypes, reliability verification, and compliance with advanced driver assistance systems.
“You can’t degrade safety performance,” said Legler. ”It’s got to be at least as good or better to be both desirable, and have the regulatory people allow it, and have industry acceptance at the driver level…We’re not going to go backwards on risk.”
Additionally, Joseph Kay of Meritor said there are still many regulations needing attention, especially those with backup strategies. There are also updates need to be given to SAE International test procedures.
The biggest challenge in the mind of Chris Stadler, Volvo Trucks’ product marketing manager, is training difficulty among inspectors.
Other industry professionals say we will see the technology primarily within longhaul fleets–especially due to their easily-predictable environments. It will take much more time for heavy-duty trucks, because they typically work in more challenging circumstances where fleets must have equipment ready for particular applications.
However,” said Bendix’s Tober, “sometimes the market takes strange turns, and a specialized application could move up in priority as the OEs go through their product planning cycles.”
Because North America has been quick to implement ADAS and electric vehicles, this shift into electronic braking will take place soon. ADAS requires full-vehicle communication, while EBS allows for improved brake balance and smoother braking throughout multiple applications. Additionally, EBS works more efficiently in collaboration with collision avoidance systems than ABS, and can also work easily with vehicle-to-vehicle communications.
“EBS knows, by design, how much pressure it takes to achieve a certain declaration–it’s being calculated and is learning all the time,” said Meritor’s Kay.
ABS has also been evolving into EBS, he said. ABS has been integrating “hill hold” and has upgraded its ability to handle automated functions, including collision mitigation. Stability control is also now mandatory in tractors with ABS, as it can now calculate mass.
However, Kay explains it is still being outgrown.
“That ABS system is trending toward the end of its time in the market, and is likely not capable of supporting the new trends pulling us into the next generation of braking,” he said.
With many brake parts remaining the same, Bendix’s Tober doesn’t believe the transition will be particularly difficult for technicians, although the technology will call for a certain period of adjustment. Technicians will be more easily able to discover brake lining wear, as they will be notified of coming problems from EBS’ predictive maintenance capabilities. The system is also easier to install than ABS, which will increase overall uptime for the industry as a whole.
The impact on truck maintenance will be “low overall” according to Kay, because the industry has already adopted so many other electronic systems–which is what has led to this transition.
“The EBS system has the ability to change the performance characteristics with a ‘keystroke,’” Kay said. “Essentially by hooking a laptop to the vehicle system, certain features may be adjustable.”
These systems will be used similarly to those in Europe, but parts will be specifically adapted for lower voltage in the U.S.
“All the OEs are now global,” said TMC’s Legler. “All the braking system suppliers are global. Nobody’s thinking about this U.S. market. Everybody’s thinking ‘global market’ as they’re developing these new technologies.”
“Considering the high number of truck crashes that are a result of a truck rear-ending another vehicle, any improvement to braking is welcome from a safety standpoint,” said Jay Stefani. “And while it’s disappointing it has taken so long to get EBS here, despite being road-tested in other countries for well over a decade, I’m glad it’s here now.”