June 13 (Bloomberg) -- Crash-avoidance technology that engages truck brakes automatically before an impending crash may prevent almost 300 fatalities a year and yield $3.1 billion in economic benefits, according to a U.S. Transportation Department report.
The U.S.-funded study, conducted by University of Michigan Research Institute and posted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website, is part of the agency’s review as it decides whether to issue a regulation later this year.
Crash-avoidance technology, already on the road in small numbers, is made by Meritor WABCO, a joint venture between Troy, Michigan-based Meritor Inc. and WABCO Holdings Inc. of Piscataway, New Jersey, and Bendix, an Elyria, Ohio-based unit of German manufacturer Knorr-Bremse AG.
“When you have a technology like this that can immediately produce results, it helps with safety and it helps economically,” said Jon Morrison, president of Meritor WABCO, whose OnGuard technology was evaluated for the study.
The system, built on anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, uses radar, software algorithms and tactile warnings to get the driver to react if an imminent crash is sensed.
If that doesn’t happen, brakes are automatically engaged.
About 24 percent of fatalities in applicable crashes could be avoided with widespread use of collision-mitigation systems like the ones Meritor WABCO was selling a few years ago, according to the study. An improved system, like one sold starting in 2013, reduces fatalities by 44 percent.
Future systems may save as many as 57 percent of the fatalities, the study found.
The economic benefits range from $900 million for older technology on only heavy-duty tractor-trailers to $3.1 billion assuming future improvements are applied to medium-sized straight trucks as well as big rigs, the study said.
Large fleets are Meritor WABCO’s biggest customers for its systems, which cost $2,300 to $2,500 per truck, Morrison said. About 10,000 systems were sold last year, and about 15,000 are projected to be sold this year, he said.
About 35,000 trucks with OnGuard are currently on the road, he said.
“This is a significant investment,” Morrison said of his trucking-fleet customers. “They continue to reorder year after year.”
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