David A. Kolman
It is very rare to get to get a chance to go as fast as possible in a big rig and not have to worry about other traffic or Johnny Law pulling you over and writing you up for speeding.
Well, I got that atypical opportunity at a recent Meritor Wabco Vehicle Control Systems hands-on technology event. The event, which took place last week at the Ford Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo, MI, showcased the company’s integrated safety and efficiency technology.
Highlights from the event included:
- The launch of Meritor Wabco’s next generation OnGuard collision safety system that features major industry advancements in radar-based technology, integrating collision warning, adaptive cruise control with active braking and collision mitigation with stationary object warning.
- The introduction of ESCsmart technology, which will advance the performance and functionality of electronic stability control (ESC). It features self-learning “drive it away” capability whereby the system is designed to automatically adapt to changes in the vehicle’s configuration.
- The announcement of immediate availability of the company’s Lane Departure Warning (LDW) in North America. A vision-based system powered by Takata’s SafeTrak technology, it is designed to monitor the road and the vehicle’s position in the lane, audibly warning the driver if the vehicle unintentionally leaves its lane.
- A look at the Electronically Controlled Air Suspension (ECAS), designed to improve traction on 6x2 applications through electronic load transfer and electronic height control, reducing air consumption and improving fuel economy.
I got to experience OnGuard, ESCsmart technology, Land Departure Warning, Electronically Controlled Air Suspension (ECAS) and Meritor Wabco’s Roll Stability Control system while at the Michigan Proving Grounds, a huge facility that encompasses 3,880 acres.
The testing facility itself includes 100 lane miles and a 5-mile oval test track that has five dedicated speed lanes: 20, 40, 60, 90 and 120 mph and over, plus a 2.5-mile straightaway.
But back to my speed adventure.
Having made fast friends with a few of the Meritor Wabco personnel who were conducting the vehicle demonstrations and ride-alongs, I was able to cajole one of them to take me out in one of the Class 8 tractors on the high-speed track. (To be honest, my driver welcomed the opportunity and didn’t need much persuasion.)
This particular tractor had a speedometer that went to 80 mph. We had the speedometer needle pinned at that setting short order.
We speed around the banked track, topping out at around 105 mph, my driver figured. (This was not his first time on the high-speed lane.)
Interestingly, it didn't feel that fast. There were no signs or mile makers to speed by to provide a sensation of speed. However, when focusing on the guardrail supports, it was obvious we were flying by.
What a ride!
To get a feel for what it feels like to travel in a tractor at speeds over 100mph, view the accompanying videos.