State of the Engine: Part IV, Vehicle/Operator Enhancements

October 22, 2015 - Author: Matt Rodgers, Lead Mechanical Engineer

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electrification technology, tractor trailer innovations

Opposed to traditional thought, fuel economy is more than just engine efficiency. The vehicle is a system that needs proper integration and collaboration of all base components. A great example of this is the “Super Truck Technology”. OEM’s joined together to assemble working prototypes of tractor trailer combinations that more than double today’s fleet average of 5-6 MPG. This is truly ground breaking and is a tribute to having increased engine efficiency, improved aerodynamics, and intelligent vehicle controls.

Let’s talk a bit about intelligent vehicles, does this mean that vehicles will be autonomous? To some part this will be reality with systems such as adaptive cruise control (allow “platooning” of trucks that drive very close together), predictive cruise control (GPS inputs help optimize fuel consumption based on terrain ahead), and neutral coast (shift to neutral during small downhill, engine idle type scenarios). Will vehicles drive themselves? Some day that could be a reality, but will require certain steps to be implemented. Stages of implementation will be advanced driver notification systems (starting to see in production today), semi-autonomous, and then fully-autonomous. Benefits of autonomous features will include congestion reduction, traffic flow corrections, aerodynamic drag reduction, increased safety, and personal comfort/reduced driver stress. However, the final result will be ultimately up to the consumer, as a prized freedom that we take for granted today, is that of us taking our own vehicle for a drive, where we want, how we want. It will be an interesting horizon ahead as to how operator and vehicle will interact with each other.


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