Automotive influence on off-highway cabs

  • 29-Sep-2016 02:38 EDT
The Genius Cab exterior.jpg

Thirteen partners jointly developed the Genius CAB concept envisioned for construction, agricultural and industrial forklift application. The cab consists of near-series components and systems.

Describing new features and technologies for off-highway vehicles as “automotive-style” sometimes comes off as marketing hype—words meant to tap into views that passenger vehicles are more progressive and closer to the cutting-edge. But often the link is more substantive—engineering know-how actually migrated from pavement-bound machines to those that call dirt home.

The latter scenario holds true for a recent concept cab envisioned for construction, agricultural and industrial forklift application that consists of near-series (capable of employment in off-highway within the next two or three years) components and systems. Many among the 13 partners that jointly developed the Genius CAB are firmly established in the automotive industry, and quite of few of these suppliers note the influence their automotive arms played in their contributions to the project.

Robert Bosch is one such company. The Tier 1 contributes the body computer, which enables centralized control of the sensors and actuators via CAN (SAE J1939), LIN or directly, as well as the ultrasound sensors integrated into the exterior of the Genius CAB to detect dangerous situations by displaying relative positions and nearby obstacles. The information is communicated to the operator via the display terminal and a Hella ScenarioLight installed in the roof.

“We have a lot of experience [with systems integration] coming from the automotive industry, so using that on a construction machine really gives us a big advantage,” said Kai Bohne, Senior Manager of Sales and System Engineering, Commercial Vehicle and Off-road Business. “Our main business in off-highway currently is hydraulics, fuel systems and aftertreatment systems; HMI [human-machine interface] and electronics is the next step on top of that.”

The ultrasonic sensors are “similar technology from pass car,” he said, which would be mounted in the bumper for advanced warning systems.

Hella, another major automotive supplier, notes that development of the cab’s LED worklights was based on its previously-deployed-in-automotive matrix beam technology. Subdivided into multiple units that can be dimmed up or down according to the situation, matrix beam LEDs avoid “dazzling” operators. For example, while the bucket of a wheel loader is raised, it is not illuminated and the light is routed past it.

During the 18-month development process for the Genius CAB, systems integration was a key focus for the partners. One example is the aluminum front beam structure, manufactured by Fritzmeier Systems, doubling as a heat sink for the integrated matrix beam worklights.

The Genius CAB also taps into a trend that is huge in automotive now: lightweighting. The cab features a newly developed modular structure that results in a 30% reduction in weight. A “soft cab” is made from welded aluminum special profiles, and a steel EXO-ROPS/FOPS (rollover protection system/falling object protection system) is attached over the cab as an add-on. This exo-structure can be variably adapted to suit the weight of the machine, according to Fritzmeier, ranging from 10 to 50 t (11 to 55 ton).

Instead of mirrors, a camera system combined with a variable view reversing camera from MEKRA Lang—used for the first time in a cab for an off-highway vehicle—provides enhanced surround visibility, especially in the dark. The system, which has been demonstrated in future-looking on-highway trucks, displays hard-to-see areas at the rear of the vehicle on screens inside the cab, while compensating for the vehicle’s vibrations.

Automotive cable supplier S.M.A. Metaltechnik also contributed to the project, supplying an internal heat exchanger that the company claims is the first “efficiency boosting component of this nature” to be used in a construction machine. Involved in the cab’s air-conditioning system since the concept phase, S.M.A. decided up front to use components that had undergone successful testing and deployment in the automotive sector, including high-density connection technologies and refrigerant hoses featuring low loss and high flexibility.

The inspiration behind the HMI setup developed by Grammer in collaboration with Dresden University of Technology was the car interior—having multifunctional controls at the operator’s fingertips, according to Marko Boving, Product Manager, Grammer EiA Electronics. “Why can’t you do that in an excavator? This is what we focused on,” he said.

As with drivers on the road, operator distraction is a major consideration in HMI design. “Although we can show a lot of information, you can disengage [certain functionalities] or not show them. For OEMs, it’s easy for vehicle platforms; it’s just software, so the modification factor is high.”

Boving used a term common in automotive, of course, to describe the discipline: cognitive systems engineering. “We engineer what you can perceive, and that’s what we did here.”

If the Genius CAB concept is an accurate indicator, it’s easy to perceive automotive technologies and sensibilities having an even greater influence on off-highway cabs in the near future.

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