It's not uncommon for technology developed for the military to eventually find its way into consumer products, but the US Army is taking things in the other direction. In an effort to improve the safety of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, it is fitting them with electronic stability control (ESC) technology like that found in commercial vehicles for years.
To protect against underbody threat posed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and mines, the distance from the ground to the bottom of MRAP vehicles is maximized. However, this raises their center of gravity and makes them more susceptible to rolling over.
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The Army says while most rollovers experienced by the MaxxPro family of MRAPs that were first introduced in 2007 were due to the roadway under the vehicles collapsing, some were maneuver-related. It is these maneuver-related rollovers, which have resulted in injuries and fatalities, that the fitting of ESC is intended to reduce or eliminate altogether.
The ESC system being fitted makes use of the vehicle's anti-lock braking system time data and the intent of the driver ascertained through a sensor in the steering column. When it detects unsafe driving that could potentially result in loss of vehicle control, the system intercedes to restrict engine power and apply braking to each wheel individually to help steer the vehicle where the driver intends to go. The system then recedes into the background and returns full control to the driver once the "unsafe" threshold has passed.
"It just makes sense," said Lt. Col. Elliott Caggins, the Vehicle Systems product manager at the US Army's Program Office (APO) for MRAP vehicles. "We have developed the most ballistically survivable tactical vehicle platform possible. We need to make sure that it is as safe in all aspects of operation, not just for enemy threats."
Additionally, the Army sees the introduction of ESC as an important step towards future fully autonomous vehicles through an evolutionary approach involving the integration of "driver assist" technologies.
The first MRAP vehicles have been fitted with ESC, with the Army saying the entire MaxxPro family of vehicles are scheduled to sport the computerized stability technology by the end of the 2017 fiscal year. This includes the installation of ESC on 2,633 MaxxPro Dash vehicles in fiscal 2015-2016, 301 new MaxxPro long wheel base ambulances in fiscal 2015. There are also plans to integrate ESC into other Army MRAPs in the future.
Source: US Army