Rising to the Challenges

Amid all the excitement about EVs and autonomous vehicles, UD Trucks have kept focus on the most important innovation of all.

Right now, we’re witnessing the kind of transformation that hasn’t been seen since the shift from the horse-and-cart to motor vehicles, and it’s incredibly exciting to be asked to lead UD Trucks here in Australia during this time.

Truck manufacturers around the world are racing ahead in areas such automation and electromobility, and UD Trucks is no exception. We’re innovating within a clearly-defined approach we call Better Life: better for logistics and for business, better for people and better for the planet.

Through this roadmap we aim to be the clear leader in sustainability among the Japanese commercial truck manufacturers. Now, sustainability is a word that everyone interprets differently.

To us it means innovating to overcome the many challenges facing the logistics industry, such as driver shortages, increased delivery demand, resource depletion, carbon emissions and safety, all while also creating better workplaces for our people and supporting our communities.

This year we launched our innovation roadmap Fujin & Raijin – Vision 2030, which aims to deliver a variety of smart logistics solutions, including fully-electric and autonomous trucks.

We’ve successfully trialled zero-emission vehicles in Japan and are making strides in automated vehicles by concentrating on confined and restricted areas, such as within factories and harbour zones.

Putting theory into practice, last year we concluded an agreement with Kobe Steel to conduct autonomous driving trials at their Kakogawa steelworks.

From the safety perspective, removing the driver from high-risk confined spaces would be a game changer for our industry. This leads to what I believe is the most important innovation of all: improved safety.

The automotive industry has the clear objective of Vision Zero: a future with no injuries and no fatalities from road collisions, roads that are safe for all road users.

For decades we’ve accepted as a society the ‘road toll’ as an inevitable cost we have to pay—in human lives—for the many benefits that cars, trucks and buses provide.

That’s just not an acceptable approach, and UD Trucks has a genuine commitment to our industry’s Vision Zero. We’ve been studying crash reports in Australia and globally, and there’s a clear and disturbing trend: the proportion of serious crashes caused by human factors is increasing every year.

UD Quon 8×4 tipper.

In all, the majority of major crash losses were caused by inattention, speeding, poor positioning, poor following distances and fatigue. The NTARC Major Accident Investigation report from 2022 confirmed this, showing that in Australia, speed and driver error caused 54.5 per cent of large loss crashes.

Inattention as a cause increased to 15.4 per cent, making it bigger than fatigue and mechanical failure combined, while inadequate following distances made up 9.3 per cent. We expect our drivers to pilot heavy vehicles in all manner of extremely challenging environments and conditions, so if we’re going to prevent these accidents, we need to give them the tools for the job.

UD Trucks have made these statistics the basis for our focus areas in safety technology.

Targeting the 9.3 per cent of crashes caused by poor following distances is our Traffic Eye Adaptive Cruise Control system. It combines a camera and radar to maintain a set distance from the leading vehicle, all the way down to a complete standstill.

We’re tackling the 16 per cent caused by inattention and fatigue with our new Driver Monitoring System—an in-cab camera that monitors driver posture and eye movements.

If it detects a driver slouching or showing eye movements consistent with inattention or fatigue for example, it sounds and alarm and flashes warnings.

Driver error according to NTARC report.

My personal favourite addresses the 11 per cent caused by poor vehicle positioning: it’s our Blind Spot Information System with Lane Change Support, or what I call our ‘vulnerable road users’ detection system.

It mounts radars on both sides of the truck that can detect moving objects including cars, pedestrians, cyclists and more, up to an impressive 30 metres behind and 7 metres ahead. Each of these advances is significant.

Taken together, they can help to mitigate most of the human factors that cause accidents.

That’s what I call a significant innovation. When change is happening as quickly as it is now, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and lose sight of what really matters: people.

Sometimes it’s the simple things – like the excellent visibility in our Quon model for example – that contribute every day to the safety of everyone working in and around a UD truck. Our industry is facing a lot of challenges, but from challenge comes opportunity to innovate, and create to ultimately make a Better Life for all.

If UD’s history has shown us nothing else, it is that we thrive in the face of challenges and change. Because, what if we were to challenge back?

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