Eons ago when the first mechanics were inventing simple hand tools, the wheel and other great epiphanies, they could never have imagined the heights technology would reach at this stage of our development. Technology as a whole increases exponentially every year and nowhere is this more apparent than in my current vessel for world domination: trucking.

Eighteen years ago when my journey towards absolute power brought me here to our beloved Epes, anti-lock braking (ABS) had only recently become a mainstream reality. So now, at the risk of exploding the brains of those who still find their stapler to be a marvel of technology…here we go. ABS uses a magnetic sensor mounted on the axle that “counts” teeth on a ring mounted to the hub. When you over-brake in a hard stop situation, the wheel locks and it begins to slide causing a loss of traction and control. When the ABS electronic control unit (ECU) no longer sees the pulse from the ABS sensor passing over the teeth on the ring, it quickly releases the brake on the wheel in distress up to fifteen times per second. Not even a true super trucker can move the pointed toes of his super trucker cowboy boots so rapidly! Once sanity prevails and things return to a more subdued state, normal braking operation will resume. ABS has been an Epes staple since 1993….four years before it became a Federal mandate.

Time and science marched on and soon ABS begat automatic traction control (ATC) as it evolved. The ABS ECU, still counting teeth, could now perceive wheel spin by seeing that one wheel was sending more pulses than the others. The ECU would apply the brakes to the wheel that slips to transfer power to the wheel that grips in order to get the vehicle moving again. Mechanical evolution moved further forward with the advent of roll stability control (RSC) and enhanced stability control (ESC) in an effort to keep our faithful steeds in a vertical position. I vividly remember the early days of RSC and the phone calls I received stating that when the truck entered a corner the driver lost throttle response. Much to the driver’s dismay my response was slow down before my truck is on its side! Both RSC and ESC use a variety of sensors to measure lateral acceleration, pitch and yaw or in laymen’s terms: how likely will this truck turn over. So when you sail your 80,000 juggernaut onto an off ramp too quickly it will react in the interest of self-preservation and at this point the vehicle has apparently become more intelligent than the operator. The truck will first kill the fuel pedal, then apply the engine brake and in extreme cases apply the foot brakes. Once things settle down control will be returned to the driver. Yet another Federal mandate looms in the near future for ESC to be standard equipment.

Further advances to ABS include collision mitigation systems that actually “see” other vehicles and adjust your speed to maintain a safe following distance. If you are closing on another vehicle too quickly the system will sound an alarm, apply the engine brakes followed by the footbrakes if need be. There are also systems in development capable of spotting and identifying obstacles such as people and even read speed limit signs to prevent that pesky speeding ticket. ABS is only one of numerous systems in the modern day class 8 truck and as you can see technology has evolved by leaps and bounds. To all you “technophobes”…what can I say? You might as well get used to it because it is not going to go away without some catastrophic EMP (electromagnetic pulse) to wipe out all the computers in the world and then it won’t matter anyway. My, what an educational experience today from the Great One! Amazing how dependent we have become on technology, acronyms (look it up, I can’t do it all) and the wealth of knowledge: me! Till next time, y’all come see us! The resurgence of the master…the Tito!

 

About Tommy Wilson

Rocket Scientist, Garage God

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