What Diesel Trucks Teach Us About Consumer Adoption of ADAS Technology  

Editor’s note: ADAS is short for “advanced driver assistance systems,” a general term to describe any number of active safety features. Adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and other similar features fall into this category. Consumer opinions on ADAS features are mixed; some say they are helpful and relieve the stress of driving, while others find them annoying and invasive. This article originally appeared on AutoVision News, a sister publication of Automoblog. The content below is from an AutoSens Detroit 2023 presentation, encouraging industry professionals to always see things through the eyes of the consumer.

Centrifugal pendulum vibration dampers, shear-style body mounts and diesel exhaust brakes share a special relationship. Specific foundational components like these work together to achieve an overall vehicle goal, whether it be efficiency, comfort, safety, or performance. In the world of autonomous driving, we call this sensor fusion. The mechanical components have their own fusion and play an essential role in “syncing” with the latest ADAS features. Especially in trucks, the best-selling vehicles in the United States

The examples here are inspired by my time as a Product Specialist with the Chevrolet National Truck Team, where I traveled the US to shows, expos, and trade shows. While working in this capacity for Chevrolet, I entered the AutoSens community for the first time. And somewhere along the way, these observations began to trickle down.

Merit Medals and Spring Masses

In 2016, the midsize Chevy Colorado was available for the first time with a 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel. The four-cylinder engine produced a whopping 369 lb-ft. of torque (500 Nm) at 2000 rpm, increasing Colorado’s maximum towing, payload and GVWR capabilities. Although the Colorado returned to market in 2015 with a 3.6-liter V6, the truck’s architecture was designed in advance to support the diesel powertrain.

At the time, the idea of ​​a small diesel engine in the newly redesigned Colorado was quite successful. Chevrolet has already earned its credit badges with customers and fans with the long-running Duramax diesel in its HD models. Now the midsize Colorado had the option of using a Duramax hood shield, like the muscle-bound 2500 and 3500.

Unlike the Silverado HD’s 6.6 Duramax, the 2.8-liter plant I-4 was mated to GM’s 6L50 Hydra-Matic six-speed automatic transmission versus the highly respected Allison transmission found in the 2500 and 3500. Exclusive to The Colorado Duramax was the Centrifugal Pendulum Vibration Absorber (CPVA) integrated into the torque converter, the first time GM has taken advantage of such a design. The CPVA is a shock absorber with a set of secondary spring masses that, when energized, cancel out torsional vibrations so that occupants are less inclined to feel them. These spring masses vibrate in the opposite direction of the engine’s torsional vibrations, balancing out unwanted NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness).

2016 Chevy Colorado Duramax under the hood.
Hallmarks of the 2.8-liter Duramax include a cast iron cylinder block, forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods, and a lubrication circuit with a dedicated feed for the turbocharger. Photo: Chevrolet.

working in unison

Metaphorically, if marketing anticipated that consumers would question whether or not the Colorado “runs like a truck,” CPVA was the engineering response. Also bolted to the frame were shear-style body mounts, also new at the time. These stiffer mounts were shock-like and provided additional damping during compression and rebound to calm the “bouncy” feeling inside the cabin. Under heavier payload, it made the Colorado more enjoyable to drive.

The CPVA and shear-style body mounts worked in conjunction with the Duramax 2.8-liter’s diesel exhaust brake. If the CPVA and shear-style body mounts were about comfort, the diesel exhaust brake was about control and confidence. The feature uses the variable vanes in the turbocharger to create back pressure in the engine, which slows the truck down steeper grades while towing a trailer. Diesel exhaust brakes reduce brake pad wear and prevent that “running away from you” feeling while towing. They also sound great when engaged!

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Each feature—the CPVA, shear-style body mounts, and diesel exhaust brake—work together in a mechanical fusion, similar to autonomous vehicle sensors. Illustrating this mechanical fusion while on the road with the Chevy Truck Team was always fun; consumers would be quick to accept it and ask insightful questions. Given the opportunity, consumers will quickly grasp an explanation of sensor fusion and ask similar intuitive follow-up questions. This type of dialogue helps build the bridge between ADAS and consumer autonomy and trust.

ADAS and Trucks: Real World Applications

ADAS applications in regards to trucks are an exciting topic under the broader umbrella of advanced security. Since trucks have multiple use cases, whether for business or pleasure, it opens up fertile ground for ADAS innovations to take root as useful tools in the minds of consumers.

For example, the adaptive cruise control, lane departure, and blind-spot monitoring systems can be calibrated to accommodate trailers of different sizes, from recreational fishing boats to commercial fifth-wheel or gooseneck applications. ADAS innovations can warn drivers of a potential jackknife, a dangerous event during a sudden loss of traction in which the trailer sways in an L or V shape behind the truck. The applications for exterior cameras are nearly endless when it comes to safety and convenience when hitching up and towing a trailer (and that’s not including interior check cameras, which could warn a drowsy driver that they may pose a greater risk to road safety with a long and heavy trailer to tow).

There is tremendous opportunity with trucks, given their best-selling stature regardless of manufacturer, to communicate how ADAS technology and mechanical (and structural) components work hand in hand. There is an opportunity to help consumers become familiar with the latest ADAS innovations (ie new technology) in a vehicle they are used to seeing (the truck).

Ford Super Duty 2023.
Interior monitoring cameras could warn a drowsy driver that they may pose a greater risk to road safety with a long, heavy trailer in tow. Photo: Ford Motor Company.

The experiential marketing approach

In a hypothetical conversation with a consumer on this topic, it might be best to start with the truck’s fully framed, high-tensile-strength steel frame with integrated crossmembers, a design that prevents bending and twisting while towing (reduces a phenomenon known as “tail wagging the dog”, where the trailer moves from side to side). In the rare case that this happens with a properly loaded trailer, we might instruct the consumer to ease up on the accelerator. Meanwhile, the Trailer Sway Control system, an important feature of ADAS, is already automatically applying brake pressure to individual wheels to balance the trailer in line behind the truck.

If you’re traveling downhill with a trailer, we can show you how to activate trailer mode and the diesel exhaust brake. We can also explain how the truck’s blind spot detection system takes the trailer into account and will issue an alert if you try to change lanes but don’t see another car hiding in the trailer’s blind zone. The goal is to show the relationship between mechanical and sensor fusion in the hope that consumers will see the truck’s ADAS technology (or any ADAS technology in any vehicle) as a help rather than a hindrance.

Either way, there will be a test later in the CPVA.

Carl Anthony is the managing editor of Automoblog and the host of AutoVision News Radio and AutoSens Insights. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and a board member of the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation. Like many Detroiters, Carl hopes to win the Super Bowl for the Lions.

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