Sweden-based automotive safety systems manufacturer Autoliv is showcasing a new vacuum braking system – the Torricelli brake – developed to significantly reduce the stopping distance for autonomous emergency braking (AEB) in vehicles.
The Torricelli brake is a vacuum-induced plate underneath a vehicle, which sucks down into the track during an emergency braking situation.
The innovation could transform traffic safety in urban environments, says Autoliv, further highlighting that tests have proven that the Torricelli brake decreases braking distances by up to 40% at speeds of up to 70 km/h.
The technology was developed at Autoliv’s research plant in Vårgårda, Sweden. The brake technology is named after seventeenth century Italian physicist Evangelista Torricelli, who was known for clinically accounting the vacuum and for inventing the barometer.
Autoliv stresses that many car accidents are caused by late braking using insufficient force, adding that a driver may brake too late for several reasons, such as poor visibility, when a driver is inattentive or distracted, or when a pedestrian crosses the street without paying attention.
With this in mind, several car manufacturers now offer AEB systems. “Autoliv’s revolutionary Torricelli brake will radically enhance the efficiency of AEB systems by dramatically reducing braking distances,” states the company.
Autoliv further explains that the Torricelli brake is connected to the automatic breaking system, which, in turn, is rigged to detect hazards ahead. The patented solution uses a 0.3 m2 vacuum plate underneath the vehicle, which activates in 0.1 seconds and produces a downforce of 15 000 N independently from the tyre-to-track friction. This reduces stopping distances on wet and dry asphalt.
Meanwhile, Autoliv has put a maximum speed limit for activating the system at 70 km/h, owing to the effectiveness and force of the system. Consequently, the Torricelli brake will mainly be applicable in urban environments, where pedestrians, inattentive children or cyclists could be avoided, for example.
“Even if there are several steps ahead before the Torricelli brake could be put into full-scale production, this is undoubtedly an example of how future innovations can revolutionise traffic safety and save more lives, particularly in urban environments,” says Autoliv research head Ola Boström.
“[However,] the main hindrance for . . . implementation of the Torricelli brake is simply that it is too efficient. To complement existing safety equipment, other safety details, such as belt tighteners or seat belts also need to be updated – owing to the major braking force of the Torricelli brake system,” adds Boström.
While he does not want to speculate on whether the industry is ready to embrace the Torricelli brake, Boström notes that the company has showcased the system for a small number of manufacturers and gained substantial interest with this innovation.