The Transformation of Japanese Designed Trucks

The transformation of Japanese designed trucks

The transformation of Japanese designed trucks in the past 10 years shows the influence of European ownership, plus the perceived need by Japanese industry to open up to global ideas has taken hold in Japan. The big four Japanese truck makers no longer make a truck to suit Japanese buyers and then adapt it as an afterthought for export markets, the outside world is part of the initial design scope.

These changes are epitomised in the latest Quon from UD. This is like a new truck, from the ground up. It may look familiar, but from behind the wheel it is a transformation. While retaining the familiar solidity and resilience of the traditional UD truck the new design has allowed the designers from the Volvo Group to run riot.

The Quon doesn’t miss out on much of the technology we have seen in Volvo for many years and in Mack’s trucks more recently. This is a Japanese prime mover with all of the fruit. It is a very sophisticated unsophisticated truck, if that’s possible. The smart technology is an overlay on a basic durable Japanese truck.


The transformation of Japanese designed trucks


By adding all of these technologies which make up the modern sophisticated truck, UD trucks has set itself apart from the other Japanese manufacturers competing here in Australia. Other brands do have access to very sophisticated electronics and systems globally, but often choose not offer them here. UD has decided to go to town on technology and throw everything at it.

On the latest UD Quon prime mover, a camera fitted in the front windscreen and a radar fitted next to the front bumper feed data to the Traffic Eye system, which monitors vehicles in front of the truck and will firstly warn the driver of any impending collision, and apply the braking system if the driver doesn’t react correctly. This system is a first for a Japanese truck of this size, but is commonly offered in modern European prime movers.

The camera also feeds data to the lane departure warning system which will set off an alarm in the speaker on the relevant side if the truck drifts across the white line at the edge of its lane or gets too close to the edge of the road. Also using the camera is an optional driver alert system which monitors driver behaviour in terms of traffic lanes, approaching vehicles and steering input to estimate driver awareness. The truck also has a stability control system. It is possible to turn these safety features off when driving, but they will reengage after the driver keys off and on again. 

This truck also has adaptive cruise control (ACC) with which the driver can set a following distance behind the vehicle ahead and the truck will keep the vehicle in front at that distance by modulating speed. 

Another innovation in the latest Quon sees a much more modern design appearing in the information screen directly in front of the driver. Over the years we have seen modern screens appearing in our cars, European trucks and even US trucks. However, the information screens in Japanese Trucks have retained a design which looks like it comes from one of the early Atari computer games.


The transformation of Japanese designed trucks


This has all changed now. It is a modern looking information screen with plenty of easy interactivity and sophisticated menus which the driver can scroll through and choose which will be their default when driving. The screen looks crisp and clear, easy to read. 

This screen is also home to the ‘Nenpi Coach’ system which rates driver behaviour and makes recommendations on how to improve driving and fuel economy. Anyone who has driven with one of these types of system will understand how effective they can be in giving real time feedback and introducing a competitive element between drivers, or be really annoying if you don’t drive properly.

Communication between the driver and the information screen is controlled from the steering wheel. The wheel’s design follows a course which seems to have become default in modern trucks. The buttons to the left control cruise control and active cruise control distance, while those on the right are used to scroll through the information screen and interact with the vehicle’s computer.

Overall, the dashboard in the Quon is full of information and very easy to read. The instrument to the left is the speedometer with the two air pressure indicators at the bottom. On the right is the tachometer with the fuel and AdBlue levels indicated at the bottom. In the middle, at the top, is the information screen with the main blue section configurable plus trip, fuel use, speed and so on. There are time, odometer and a number of indicators across the top. Beneath this are three small screens, one showing the cruise control settings, the second the gear engaged and the last the engine brake level engaged.

The fully multiplexed wiring means the truck has interchangeable switches. The array of switches on the dash can be configured anywhere the truck operator chooses. Another un-Japanese aspect is the fact there is a 12 volt outlet in the cabin, plus climate control rather than air conditioning. 


The transformation of Japanese designed trucks