- February 19, 2020
- Posted by: Jeff White
- Category: Articles
As vehicles have evolved and improved throughout the decades, so have their braking systems. Modern trucks and trailers include complex systems designed to help you stop better and sooner than ever before while increasing longevity on system components.
ABS (Antilock braking system) is now a standard safety system on cars, trucks, and trailers, but it wasn’t always that way. The roots of ABS can be found within the aircraft industry back in the ’20s, and while the systems are far more sophisticated now, they served the same primary function of disallowing the wheels to lock up upon rapid deceleration and low traction surfaces. Anyone who has driven a vehicle without ABS during an icy winter knows the perils of locked-up wheels, primarily a loss of vehicle control. In the ’90s, these systems started to become standard features added to vehicles from the factory. Systems that worked with airbrakes were also developed and implemented on trucks and trailers.
Most braking systems nowadays include a computer or module of some sort that works in conjunction with other vehicle systems, including sensors and valves to determine wheel speed, vehicle speed, various pressures (often air/hydraulic). While systems have varied through its development (only specific axles had ABS as an example), the basic set up of ABS is that each wheel will contain a speed sensor and a tone/exciter ring. The tone ring is a notched or toothed ring attached to the rotating side of the wheel, generally on the wheel hub, and is made of steel. The sensor has a magnetic coil and sits next to the tone ring. As the steel teeth pass by the sensor, an electrical pulse is developed and sent to the processing unit (module or computer) where wheel speed is calculated.
Engineers have developed and used complex algorithms that take into account various vehicle design features, including wheel size, gear ratios, and the like to give accurate readings of what the various components are doing at any given time. This means a simple wheel/tire change where the overall diameter of the wheel/tire assembly is changed will cause the vehicles ABS computer to calculate the wrong speed. Often vehicle speedometers use these sensors as well, and changing the overall wheel/tire diameter can cause your speedometer to read incorrectly as well.
Thankfully for vehicle owners, the aftermarket has addressed this and offers personal devices that will help owners modify wheel size, tire size, gear ratios, etc. that are programmed into the various computers allowing a proper calculation. Most repair shops will also provide this service for individuals not wanting to make the investment in a tuner or for those where a tuner is not an option. Pricing for these services varies, but the process generally doesn’t take too long.
The development of ABS has also brought forth the development in traction control systems (TCS), which is ABS in reverse. These systems, through the same series of sensors and valves, will detect abnormal wheel speed on hard acceleration or surfaces with low traction and stop wheel spin, allowing you to gain as much traction as possible in the given situation.
In recent years, some of these vehicles include CAS (collision avoidance system) and use various devices and techniques (radar, cameras, lasers, GPS) that will detect when and an impending collision will happen without intervention. Some of these collision avoidance systems will notify the operator with warning lights and alarms. At the same time, others also include AEBS (Autonomous emergency braking systems or Advanced emergency braking system) and automatically apply the brakes accordingly to adjust the appropriate following distance. While these systems will often be inclusive of each other, they are not the same.
Gone are the days of shade tree repairs where someone could fix their vehicle themselves. Vehicles are equipped with warning lights on the dash that will notify an operator of a failed system, which more often than not require specially trained technicians and often expensive computers and tools to diagnose and repair these complex systems. Now, more than ever, we depend on computers to help us in our daily tasks, and driving is undoubtedly one of them. Then that owners and operators must insure their vehicles are repaired accordingly to ensure safe operation.
This technology has been a stepping stone in making vehicles more autonomous in general where today the average consumer can buy a vehicle that can essentially parallel park itself, help us avoid accidents, allow us to maintain following proper distances automatically, and allow an owner to summon their car from its parking space to where they are. As autonomous vehicle development continues, there is no doubt that worries of the past will fade, and new ones will appear. How a vehicle’s braking component and the process of braking will change as autonomous vehicles develop will be interesting to follow. Still, one thing is sure if history serves us, the braking systems of tomorrow will be more complex, more detailed, and safer overall.