While connected technologies for passenger vehicles are moving toward more widespread, everyday use, the benefits of improved performance, safety, durability, and fuel economy offered by connected vehicles are rapidly gaining a foothold in the off-highway market as well.
Numerous concurrent technological advancements are moving connected-vehicle development efforts forward. Big data widens the knowledge base, helping equipment manufacturers and owners alike to better understand the hidden factors that impact vehicle performance. The communication of vehicle data in real- or near-real time allows operators and fleet managers to vastly improve safety and durability by surfacing issues long before an accident or equipment failure. Also, autonomous driving enables equipment fleet managers to improve productivity and durability by standardizing and optimizing the operation of every piece of machinery, regardless of the experience level of the operator.
At Dana, we are leading the transformation of the off-highway drivetrain through connected-vehicle innovations. Through Dana’s new Spicer Smart Suite technology, our engineers are taking formerly passive components and turning them into valuable sources of vehicle intelligence.
Spicer Smart Suite technology uses monitoring devices to capture data from key drivetrain operating processes, with computing capabilities that consolidate, manage, and analyze large volumes of data. Leveraging compatibility with common vehicle communication protocols and telematics systems, Spicer Smart Suite technology then delivers deep, rich, and accurate insights on vehicle performance to alert operators, maintenance managers, and other key personnel to potential issues.
This system shares critical alerts and analysis to end users on vehicle central display panels, via tablets, and in fleet management centers. This communication is especially important as operators take a less active role in the control of autonomous vehicles, where a person in the cab traditionally may no longer be completely engaged and in a position to sense changes in handling characteristics through a foot on a brake pedal or hands on a steering wheel.
The provided information can be communicated to the vehicle management system, which can be configured to initiate key functions independent of operator intervention such as applying brakes, adjusting steering, or changing suspension characteristics. When a failure is detected in the driveline, this information is shared with the transmission control unit, which can then secure driveline and vehicle components.
Spicer Smart Suite intelligent load monitoring system (ILMS) is the first in a series of Spicer Smart Suite connected-vehicle technology packages. Currently being tested on prototype vehicles, Spicer Smart Suite ILMS is an advanced technology option for telehandlers that uses data from across the vehicle to prevent tip-over incidents, provide better estimates of static loads, and supply intelligent calibration management.
Spicer Smart Suite ILMS collects data from the axle and other vehicle systems to provide robust, real-time operating metrics. As a result, the system can offer vehicle and load monitoring in dynamic conditions, such as cornering, lifting, and shuttling.
In its most basic implementation, Spicer Smart Suite ILMS provides alerts of improper operating maneuvers. In its most sophisticated form, it can monitor hazardous movements and work in conjunction with vehicle controllers to provide automatic countermeasures and restore safe operating conditions, such as retracting the boom or limiting vehicle speed. The system can also be configured to enable estimates of lifted loads and send distress signals if the vehicle is at risk of tipping over or otherwise encounters conditions causing instability.
Dana has begun prototype testing of Spicer Smart Suite ILMS on a mid-sized telehandler, with plans to make the technology available for testing by vehicle manufacturers by the end of 2016. Ultimately, this system will be offered as an optional feature on all Spicer axles for telehandlers with lifting capacities ranging from 5000 to 15,000 lb (2270 to 6800 kg).
We are also actively developing additional Spicer Smart Suite technology packages, including capabilities for health and diagnostics monitoring, wheel-speed and torque monitoring, steering and suspension status monitoring, and data fusion-analysis and communication. And while our development efforts are currently focused on axles, they will extend to additional Spicer drivetrain products, such as transmissions and driveshafts. The data we can derive is virtually without limit, as are the benefits we can deliver.
While digging, lifting, grading, and other essential tasks that powered off-highway equipment need to perform may not have changed much over the past century, connected-vehicle technology will forever alter how they perform, making them far more productive, safe, and environmentally friendly. As OEMs increasingly use the insights available from vehicle data, innovators such as Dana have a prime opportunity to contribute essential, valuable intelligence that can further optimize performance.
George Constand, Chief Technical and Quality Officer, Dana Holding Corp., wrote this article for Off-Highway Engineering as part of the annual Executive Viewpoints series appearing in the June 2016 issue.