The Department of Transportation SuperTruck program is paying off with new and better technology that helps big rigs maximize their fuel economy while reducing carbon emissions. It now offers predictive cruise control technology as an option on its ProStar and LoneStar Class 8 tractors. The proprietary system uses pre-installed GPS maps and the latest commercial route data to make adjustments to cruising speed without the need to “pre-drive” routes.
“Because the GPS maps and route data are already loaded, this smart technology will enable fleets and drivers to obtain greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions right out of the box,” said Denny Mooney, senior vice president of global product development for International Trucks. “As a result, drivers who frequently run different routes will experience the same benefit as drivers who are used to driving a standard route.”
Predictive cruise control optimizes cruising speed based on topographical GPS data inputs to help maximize fuel economy. International’s system monitors driver speed, engine load, truck weight ,and road grade to optimize the vehicle’s performance based on the road ahead. As the terrain changes, the predictive control modulates cruising speed to correspond to the topography.
“We’re seeing data indicating that this technology, when coupled with a Navistar or Cummins engine and an Eaton transmission, can increase fuel efficiency by up to 4%,” said Mooney. “By reducing the need for drivers to make frequent adjustments to the terrain, the system makes vehicles easier and safer to operate, thus helping our customers attract and retain new drivers and be more successful.” 4% may not seem like anything to get excited about for passenger car drivers, but when a fleet manager is budgeting fuel costs for millions of miles of travel, it’s a very significant improvement.
In a July 13 conference call with reporters, Mooney explained that the predictive cruise software developed by Navistar incorporates mapping “so geographic features and major highway systems used by over-the-road trucks are built in.” He said the system “looks ahead and knows what’s coming up and optimizes the most fuel-efficient way to operate the truck.” The predictive cruise will speed up as much as 5 mph over the set speed, then will let the speed drop down as much as 10 mph below set speed as needed to help conserve fuel even when going up and down hills.
“It will vary speed and prevent engine braking to prevent downshifts,” he added. “The 5 and 10 mph variances can be reduced per driver or owner preferences. But [changing them] might reduce the ultimate efficiency of the truck. Ours is a little different than existing [predictive cruise control] systems which have to ‘learn’ the route, then change shift and throttle settings.”
Mooney also pointed out that because drivers may not expect the truck to speed up or slow down, “a lot of driver training is required to get driver comfortable” with predictive cruise control. While the system is only available on new trucks at present, he said his company might be available as a retrofit for existing trucks at some point in the future.
Source: Trucking Info Photo credit: International Trucks