US rollover mitigation technology breaks cover

By: Rob McKay

Rocket-science solution meets scepticism from Australian expert

US rollover mitigation technology breaks cover
An Axicle image of the TARS


A US innovation promises to take prime movers out of the rollover equation but it may face difficulty being accepted here.

Dubbed by the Tractor Anti-Rollover System (TARS) by start-up Axicle Engineering, headed by former Tesla staffer and aerospace engineer Steve Krug and reportedly backed by a team formerly from SpaceX and Tesla, it is designed to unhitch the semi-trailer when sensors identify an impending rollover.

The idea is that the trailer then falls while the prime mover stays upright.

"Axicle’s fifth wheel contains two independent latching mechanisms that are used to secure it to the tractor at an optimal distance apart," the company explains. 

"The clamping systems only release when their corresponding pyrotechnic actuators are triggered during a rollover condition.

"From there, gravity simply separates the trailer from the vehicle."

The concept appears to have gained solid insurance-sector interest, with nine firms named, including the Leavitt Group, which has gone on the record in the US backing Axicle as the engineering firm seeks investment in the product.

Read about NTARC’s Major Accident Investigation 2021 Report findings, here

While it is still very early days for the innovation, the concept has met with reserve from one of the Australian industry’s foremost technical experts, not least for safety reasons of its own, existing options and questions of its flexibility.

ATA chief engineer Bob Woodward told ATN the approach was not recommended, considering the other known technologies available like the electronic braking system (EBS).

"A semitrailer is not the first stage of a rocket," Woodward noted.

"It can’t be detached with explosive bolts and allowed to fall into the Atlantic.

"The detached semitrailer would be its own threat to safety.

"EBS is a far better, safer solution."

Woodward also questioned the logic of the US approach for multi-trailer combinations.

"It is unclear what is proposed in that situation," he said.

"Do you progressively release trailers, or favour the alternative option to implement EBS and roll stability programs?

"Another concern with the US technology is that some drivers may potentially feel a level of protection and unknowingly continue to push the threshold limit.

"While EBS may not be the saviour for all, it does provide significant warning capabilities via the on-board diagnostics."


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