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Spartan Motors At Florida RV Super Show.

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Logical Implementation: Spartan Motors

President Of Specialty Vehicles Discusses Crash Mitigation System & Demo Structure At Florida RV Super Show In Tampa

Steve Guillaume, the President of Specialty Vehicles at Spartan Motors Demo Tent At Florida RV Super Show. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]

The conception of a self-driving vehicle and, by extension, a self-driving RV is a not a complete far-off concept. With newer technology and AI [artificial intelligence] systems being developed every today, it is just a matter of time before this kind of adaptive living enters into the public consciousness. At the Florida RV Super Show, Spartan Motors demoed in a real world environment its new crash mitigation system in an installed RV. MRV: The Buzz Editor In Chief Tim Wassberg was along for ride. He talked to Steve Guillaume, the President of Specialty Vehicles at Spartan Motors as well as an active tech specialist on the road about the engagement of technology, the implementation of logistics in this changing world and the actual functionality of the system.

The Buzz: Can you talk about the importance of crash mitigation systems, especially in today’s high tech vehicles like RVs.

Steve Guillaume:  Well, there's a big tie to the foundation brake system. So the first component was adding electronic stability control, which basically provides smart braking to the tires depending upon aggressive maneuvering to prohibit a rollover, [say] if there was a blown tire, or things like that. It helps the owner/operator keep the vehicle under control.

The Buzz: So it has to with balancing?

SG: Yeah. Just so that the vehicle doesn't become unstable and potentially tip. It will apply brakes to the appropriate tire to eliminate that. So you start there. And then with that, we are [using] a collision mitigation system that actually utilizes the foundation brakes. So a number of other systems before basically would just dethrottle the engine…[while] this is actually providing true foundation braking to do collision mitigation.

The Buzz: And this uses a radar tracker to do this…

SG: Yeah. So it's a radar-based system, and it monitors objects or the vehicle in front of you to see the distance and [when you’re] in the adaptive cruise setting, it's basically a cruise control that is adaptive…and maintains a safe distance. I think it's 3.6 seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you. And to the extent that they brake in front of you, our vehicle will brake so that that distance is maintained…

The Buzz: And you will feel that cavitation, right?

SG: Yep, and it will stop your vehicle. Same thing [would happen] if you were to override and apply the accelerator to get a closer distance than the adaptive cruise was allowing. Ifyou came up on the vehicle in front of you at an unsafe distance it would also apply the foundation breaks to mitigate a collision.

Tech Specialist Doing Active Crash Mitigation Demo While At Florida RV Super Show. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]
Tech Specialist Demoing Active Crash Mitigation Demo While At Florida RV Super Show. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]

An outfitted Entegra RV was taken on the road with a driver who worked on the system into a real world freeway environment who answered questions as we did maneuvers with a pilot car.

The Buzz: Can you talk about, especially at an RV show like this, the importance of crash mitigation systems.

Tech Specialist: Collision mitigation basically is three things. It applies the brakes when not in cruise control and when you are in cruise control. As we're following this vehicle right now, we're tracking him. It tells us how far and how fast he's going. If I get -- based on our speed and his -- if I get within 1.5 seconds of him, it starts beeping. [So I] back off a little bit. That says you're at a safe distance based on his speed and mine. If we close on him, keep closing on him, we do what we call a haptic stab. That's a little tap of the brakes. It wakes up the driver. Look up. Something he can feel. If he ignores that and keeps closing, we go to 50% braking. That's about a 40 psi stab of the brakes. Hopefully, you're not going [an] excessive speed and, of course, as the laws of physics still apply, it will stop you before you hit him. At some point in time, when you're going too fast, it may not. But the point there is - and this is why we call it collision mitigation - is that we will apply 50% of the brakes. You still might hit that vehicle, but you may turn a fatality into a fender bender. At 50% braking, we're going to take about 70% of the force out of the impact. All right. That's collision mitigation. No cruise control. Now when you're in cruise control, we call it adaptive cruise control. You set your cruise. Let's say you're out on the road. You set your cruise to 60. We can see out about 600 feet. So as we’re coming up on a vehicle, it's going to start tracking him. It'll tell you how far ahead he is and how fast he's going. If he's doing 50 and we're set at 60, when we get, oh, within 3 and a half seconds, 3.6 seconds away from him, [and then] we're going to start slowing down to his speed and maintain that distance. It won't let us run up on him.

The Buzz: And the computer automatically knows this.

TS: That's correct. And what we'll do on a freeway here is we'll have [our driver] ahead will cut in front of us. He'll speed up. If he wants to get the exit ramp, and couldn't make it…he missed it, he'll cut in front of me. He'll speed up a little bit. If he's going faster than me, I can't hit him, so nothing happens. Then he'll slow down. You will automatically see the truck start either reducing engine speed, jake brake, or if it was real drastic, it would go right to braking.

The Buzz: And it'll know exactly how severe it is within that small amount of time.

TS: Right. And then it'll slow me down and what happens is, it'll pick up speed again and it's automatic resume. I'll go right back to my set speed. The next maneuver we'll do is, we'll be at cruise. He'll get off the exit ramp. I will follow him all the way off to the red light and just let it do its thing, and it will bring us to a complete stop.

The RV gets off the highway and heads back to the staging area.

Active Crash Mitigation Demo At Florida RV Super Show. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]

The Buzz: Crash mitigation though actually has to involve the actual driver doing what he does and balancing that with what the computer system does . But in all seriousness, this is the first step towards something like a self-driving RV I would think.

SG: Yeah. I mean, it's one of the steps in autonomous driving because effectively the chassis is managing the acceleration in adaptive cruise and it's also managing the breaking to ensure a safe distance with the vehicle or an object in front of you.

The Buzz: Now, can you talk about the importance of this kind of advancement and innovation within a company like Spartan?

SG:  Spartan's been an industry leader in the motorhome space for some time. We were the first to provide IFS, which is “independent from suspension.” We've also had a number of other industry-first innovations. And we're kind of focusing on safety as being something that is of critical importance to our drivers and customers. So this Collision Mitigation System is part of what we're calling on our Advanced Protection System, which includes the adaptive cruise control and the electronic stability control. We also introduced with this system something that's called Safe Haul. And that's basically an integrated air brake system for your tow vehicle.

The Buzz: That's what I was going to ask about next because if you're having to deal with a tow vehicle…

SG: Yeah, most people with motorhomes of this size do have a tow car. So air brake systems are typically the most reliable, but if you don't buy one from the factory you've got a third-party that's basically tapping into your air system that's part of your foundation brake system. [With that] -- there's an opportunity for issues, put it that way. So we provide an integrated system that basically [is] just plug and play to the rear of the vehicle. And once you apply your base vehicle brakes, it also brakes the tow vehicle.

The Buzz: Now is that pure software or is it hardware?

SG: It’s primarily hardware. So what it does, is when you're applying the brakes, it pneumatically actuates the air to the tow vehicle to actually physically brake the tow vehicle.

The Buzz: And then with the software -- a lot of computer systems in these new cars, especially with those heads-up displays, they're not as simple as they could be because you have to realize that most people driving these things are not computer engineers.

SG: Yeah. It's not as intuitive.

The Buzz: Can you talk about that intuitiveness?

SG: Well, in the collision mitigation system, it's very simple. It's got green, yellow, and red. Sorry…I shouldn't say green, yellow. Sorry. It's blue, yellow, and red. So when the system is in blue, there's no object in front of you. Okay. Then it'll turn to yellow when a vehicle in front of you is detected. And to the extent that you start to close to an unsafe distance, it will give you an audible haptic warning. And then if you get too close, the system screen will turn red and it will actually apply brakes, as required, to maintain a safe distance-- up to 50% of the braking power of the system.

Chassis example of the Spartan Motors system. [Courtesy/Spartan Motors]

The Buzz: One thing that the technical specialist was mentioning, which I think is great and speaks to actually my question about what the implementation of this is, is that this could reduce crash possibilities up to 70%. That’s something I'd heard. I'm not sure if you can verify that, or if that's a possibility?

SG: Yeah. And I can't give you the 70% number, but we all drive every day and know that one of the biggest things that causes accidents is distractions. All of us have cell phones. Whether you're talking to somebody in the motorhome, whether you're changing the station on the radio and you're not paying attention, you have the opportunity for a collision. So this is mitigating one of the, if not the biggest, issue in front-end collisions.

The Buzz: What is Spartan’s implementation of this? Is it already in certain vehicles? Is it going to be?

SG: Yes. So we launched it in the 2017 model year which, for Entegra Coach, is standard in their cornerstone. That's what you did the test drive in. It is also optional in the Newmar King Aire. So those are the two. And I can't tell you who yet, but it's going to be expanding into other models.


Tim Wassberg

A graduate of New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Film/TV Production & Film Criticism, Tim has written for magazines such as Moviemaker, Moving Pictures, Conde Nast Traveler UK and Casino Player. He enjoys traveling and distinct craft beers among other things.

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After reading the article on the Crash Mitigation System, I was curious as to what the cost would be and if it would be limited to just the Spartan line or would it be retrofitted or adaptable for other manufactures .
Don Ree - Don Ree