Sophisticated electronics is the name of the game in modern trucks, especially those originating in Europe. Taking a Volvo FH on the road from Melbourne gives a driver time to have a look round the dashboard and marvel at all of sophisticated systems are now included in the latest trucks. These may be ignored by the traditionalists, but they are becoming more and more a part of the modern trucking experience.
We may try and turn them off and live without them, if we really want to, but the time is coming when there will be no choice, all of the safety systems and monitoring will be on as a default. We may as well get used to them and learn exactly what they do for us.
A quick scan along the switches and screens in the FH cabin shows a wide array. Starting in the top left corner, the DAS Driver Alert System is monitoring the drivers steering habits, when they cross the line marking on the road. If the steering becomes erratic enough it brings up a warning in the dash. The display will start telling the driver they may need to take a break or at minimum start to concentrate better on their driving.
The adaptive cruise control warning comes next. When the truck is getting too close to a vehicle in front, it will activate the auxiliary brakes, the exhaust and engine braking. If the trailers have electronic stability control, then the truck will engage service brakes to a certain extent. None of these levels of reaction will bring the truck to a halt.
Also, if the vehicle in front is stationary the system will ignore it. This may appear foolhardy, but it also means the system will not mistake a roadside sign on a bend for another vehicle and put all of the anchors on.
The following distance can be set by the driver from the steering wheel control cluster, one of many, the Volvo steering wheel has 18 switches and 25 functions. The following distance can be adjust in 0.75 of a second intervals, up to a maximum of four seconds.
Another control activates the blindspot monitor and the lane change support function. Turn on the indicator and if there is somebody or something in the vicinity of the truck’s passenger door, it will sound an audible alarm and also illuminate a visual alarm (a red light) mounted on the passenger side A pillar.
Lane keep support helps the driver to keep the truck’s position in the lane. As the truck’s wheels approach a white line an audible alarm gives the driver the impression they are driving over a rumble strip. These types of system can be useful out on the open highway but become annoying in city areas, especially those like Sydney, with narrow lanes on major arterials. The answer from Volvo is the system works only at speeds over 60 km/h.
The driver trainers will constantly tell us the safety systems must not be turned off. However, in the real world, for most drivers, if a safety feature goes off too often and especially when not needed, it will get turned off.