Q: First of all, congratulations to WABCO for celebrating 150 years of innovation. How are you connected nowadays to this legacy?
A: Saving lives and protecting the environment that is how WABCO makes a difference in the world today. Saving lives was also the inspiration for George Westinghouse’s invention of the air brake and the subsequent founding of the Westinghouse Air Brake Company on 28 September 1869.
Before the air brake, a locomotive driver would stop trains by using their whistle to signal their brakemen, who would turn the brakes in one railway carriage and jump to the next. The system was dangerous, imprecise and unreliable, and railroad accidents were frequent and deadly. Westinghouse’s 1869 air brake system connected railway wagons with hoses, using air pressure to apply the brakes. His next version used air pressure to keep the brakes off, establishing the basic technology still used today.
150 years of innovation for braking technology
In 1920, WABCO developed the first air brake systems for automobiles in the US and Europe (France). In 1934 the first air brakes were applied to trucks in Europe (Germany, Hannover) transferring Westinghouse´s knowledge from trains and cars to trucks. Since the introduction of the first trailer EBS in 1997 we reduced braking systems’ response times to the range of milliseconds – reaction times that George Westinghouse could only dream of during his era.
Focusing purely on the automotive industry today, WABCO continues to pioneer breakthrough innovations for advanced driver assistance, braking, stability control, suspension, transmission automation and aerodynamics for the world’s commercial truck, bus, trailer, car and off-highway manufacturers.
Q: Today you are establishing the Intelligent Braking Platform as the next big step. Tell us more about this concept?
A: The global trailer braking systems market is divided into three big clusters. On one hand we have North America and China which are currently using conventional brakes plus Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS) standard, with only special trailer applications using electronic braking system (EBS). On the other hand, there are EMEA, Japan and Korea where EBS is the standard. And finally we have markets such as Brazil and Australia that are in transitioning from ABS to EBS or planning to do so.
One trend however is very clear, all regions want to improve the safety and efficiency of road transportation and are realising that the trailer can play an important role. So, we see that every region, at its own pace, is increasingly seeing the needs for evolving safety and efficiency functionalities.
WABCO as a truly global player and partner to the industry is adapting products and technologies to those regional requirements and challenges. That is why we are proud to introduce our new Intelligent Braking Platform, the industry’s first global braking platform for trailers, combining iABS and iEBS on one common platform with three different performance and value levels: Basic, Standard and Premium. The first variant that is in pre-launch today is the new iABS for the important North-American market. Here, the focus is on making the trailer smarter and allow, for the first time, to activate up to 20 functions of our award-winning Intelligent Trailer Program such as Lift Axle Control, Door Ajar or Axle Load Monitoring via WABCO SmartBoard.
With the new Intelligent Braking Platform we also enable better accessibility to safety and efficiency technologies. In 2020, we will introduce a special EBS Basic Steel variant for leaf spring trailers in Brazil, Russia, India and China providing easier access to Roll Stability Support (RSS) functionality for those markets. At the same time, we are enhancing EBS functionality in EMEA by integrating the Tire Pressure Monitoring (OptiTire) and Rear Blind Spot Detection and Automatic Braking (TailGUARD) Electronic Control Unit in the Premium EBS modulator.
Q: What advantages of the Intelligent Braking Platform do you see for OEMs and fleet operators?
A: Worldwide standardised engineering guarantees more time and cost efficiency for the complete trailer life chain: trailer building, fleet operating, aftermarket, service and workshops.
The new Intelligent Braking Platform introduces harmonised hardware, software and also a uniform and standardised cable concept: iABS and iEBS are using the same cable system. Whatever trailer you build, retrofit or service internationally you can exchange or update trailer iABS and iEBS easily.
Trailer OEMs will thereby profit from global lean production, win on installation time, simplify their production lines and reduce their cables and components stock. Platforming and harmonizing hardware and cables enable aftermarket resellers and workshops for better spare part availability, shorter installation and training time. This will speed up service time not only at WABCO´s 3,100 global workshop solutions and service partners in 119 countries but also in all other workshops and will thus get vehicles faster back on the road again.
Fleet operators and also OEMs will profit from one thing in particular: Since iABS and iEBS will support 5V Controller Area Network communication ports (CAN) and Generic In/Out ports (GIO), every single trailer can become intelligent and connected to a telematics unit without system upgrade. This provides benefits such as trailer health condition monitoring and preventive maintenance capabilities to optimize logistical processes as well as driver guidance and support.
Thanks to close cooperation with our trailer and fleet customers and our 30 years engineering experience in electronic braking systems and trailer intelligence, WABCO has sold 9 million+ ABS/EBS systems in the trailer market to date.
Further standardisation of ABS/EBS hardware and cables will streamline building and servicing of trailers and at the same time enable customisation and individualisation of each trailer to better serve the complex customer needs for flexibility, specificity, speed and safety.
Q: Let us look even further into the future: ACE, ‘Autonomous – Connected – Electric’ indicates disruptive changes. How does it apply to the trailer?
A: For the ‘A’ in Autonomous Driving we expect the first autonomous driving trucks to come in China, followed by the US and then in Europe. The biggest impact on the trailer we will see in Europe – that is why we follow our roadmap and anticipate that trailers will become smarter and with more sensors equipped.
Let us take the trailer use-case ‘On-Yard’ where we are talking about providing a high definition camera, obstacle and position detection via sensors and the Truck/Trailer link (Automotive Ethernet). Thanks to this the trailer can guide the truck to the targeted spot, automated landing legs could be enabled as well as applying and releasing the trailer parking brake for automated docking and coupling manoeuvres. For ‘On-Yard’ applications we are also looking at keyless trailer access and cargo monitoring inside the trailer.
When it comes to ‘On-Highway’ applications, the brake performance management system together with side and rear monitoring and truck/trailer link becomes crucial. Here, we clearly profit from our autonomous driving developments for trucks such as Collision Mitigation System, Lane Departure Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking. Furthermore, the trailer can play an important role as a fail operation system for truck braking and steering at low speed. Autonomous manoeuvres are driving operations that we run and improve daily not only on our WABCO test tracks in Jeversen (Germany) but also on the test areas in Romaniemi (Finland) and Chennai (India).
So, we are already preparing trailers to support autonomous driving to be ready by the time it comes. In the meantime, we will offer supporting automation features as part of the Intelligent Trailer Program for standalone use.
The ‘C’ for Connectivity reveals innovation in trailer telematics, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and cloud-based solutions. Already today, fleet managers but also trailer builders can access valuable information provided by the trailer braking systems and the associated sensors in regards to remote diagnostic (preventive maintenance), localisation and tracking (optimising logistical processes) as well as immediate driver support (see more in our telematics article, Global Trailer #48).
Q: With the WABCO eTrailer as a real prototype you have already introduced electrification in the trailer world. Can you explain to us the concept and idea behind it?
A: This is about looking at possibilities to save or recuperate energy on commercial vehicles, by focusing on reducing air-resistance and regenerating brake energy.
Our well known OptiFlow aerodynamic solutions to minimize the trailer drag already deliver fuel savings up to 2.4 litres per 100km (improving fuel economy by up to seven per cent) which is going hand in hand with a C02 reduction of up to 6.2kg per 100km (this can yield up to 4.8 tonnes per trailer per year).
For further reduction of fuel consumption, a hybrid-truck is an obvious solution, but the space in the towing vehicle is limited. An eDrive system in the trailer is therefore a reasonable alternative. As a brake manufacturer with the unique ability to safely control and connect both the truck and trailer, we can manage to recuperate vehicle energy in the trailer. The energy is transformed by the eDrive and saved into a battery during deceleration or when driving downhill, enabling its reuse for propulsion or trailer auxiliaries. Truck and trailer EBS systems are interacting for best results via ISO communication.
WABCO´s eTrailer is expected to deliver overall fuel savings of up to 20 per cent on dynamic short haul routes and of up to 10 per cent for long haul routes. So, again the Intelligent Braking Platform is contributing to improve fuel efficiency and to reduce C02 emission.
Q: So, what is your final perspective on future developments?
A: The trailer is a very important element in the global transportation chain. New technologies will continue to surface but it will take time before they fully materialise. The big challenge for the trailer industry is to manage the transition from the current to the new world.
With our Intelligent Braking Platform and the Intelligent Trailer Program functionalities, we are supporting trailer builders, fleet operators, workshops, services and drivers in all countries today already to profit from safer and more efficient trailers. We are committed to continue supporting the trailer OEMs and help them build future proof trailers by anticipating and engineering ACE-ready vehicles to become Autonomous – Connected – Electric. It promises to be an exciting ride!
About Christiaan Verschueren
Christiaan Verschueren is Vice President Trailer Systems at WABCO. Engineer by education, he joined WABCO in 1994 and has been working for more than 13 years in the trailer market. Since 2009, he has been responsible for WABCO’s global trailer business leading a team of dedicated trailer experts in engineering, R&D, sales and manufacturing. Together they ensure that WABCO is also mobilising trailer intelligence as a valued developer and supplier of advanced technology and digital services for trailer manufacturers, fleets and aftermarket.
WABCO’s founder, George Westinghouse, is best known for his partnership with Nicola Tesla to develop Alternating Current (AC). Their competition with Thomas Edison’s Direct Current (DC) technology became known worldwide as ‘the current wars’. When Westinghouse and Tesla demonstrated their technologies at the 1893 World’s Fair they illuminated 250,000 lights – or 25 per cent of the world’s light bulbs used at the time.
Today, this legacy to anticipate the future is reflected in WABCO’s eTrailer prototype.