Michigan-based automotive supplier American Axle & Manufacturing (AAM) was born in the mid-1990s, after spinning off from General Motors’ Saginaw Final Drive and Forge Business Unit. GM still accounts for around two thirds of AAM’s business today – although that’s set to change with the supplier’s $3.3-billion acquisition of Metaldyne, which was just completed.
Last month, we were invited out to AAM’s headquarters in Detroit to get a peak at some of the technologies the supplier is cooking up for future deployment. Among them: a clever way of utilizing vehicle-to-vehicle (“V2V”) communications to prompt the drivetrain to ready itself for trouble.
A Quick Word Regarding V2V
Using radio waves, cars equipped for V2V communication can relay all sorts of telematics data to one another, such as vehicle speed, position, and direction of travel. That information will, in the future, help prompt certain accident-avoidance behaviors from nearby vehicles, such as braking automatically, or steering to evade an obstacle…
… Or Engaging AWD
AAM has identified another opportunity for the technology; its on-demand all-wheel-drive systems, which today are more reactionary than proactive, could be triggered preemptively if a nearby vehicle encounters circumstances that might warrant it. If, for instance, the V2V-capable car ahead spins its tires in the sleet, or swerves suddenly to avoid an obstacle in the road, news of the “traction event” or “stability event” would be beamed to your own vehicle, which could then activate its all-wheel-drive system in preparation.
We had the opportunity to see the system in action on a Jeep Cherokee equipped with a prototype V2V system, and a second-generation AAM “EcoTrac” disconnecting-AWD system. A lead vehicle, also equipped with V2V, was driven by an AAM engineer, who pulled a few deliberate maneuvers to trip the car’s traction control and stability control. A very non-OE display on the Jeep’s dash, meant to aid the system’s developers, highlighted in real time whether traction or stability control was activated. The Jeep, warned by the lead car, took action in either event by quickly engaging all-wheel drive.
AAM’s prototype V2V system demonstrates a use for inter-vehicle communications that we hadn’t even considered, giving the supplier’s test vehicle an almost telepathic read on the road conditions ahead. When split-seconds count, that heads-up could make all the difference. Should the company’s new, second-generation EcoTrac AWD system ever find its way into a GM product, we wouldn’t be surprised to find that it’s aided by AAM’s clever V2V integration.
For more on AAM’s latest technologies, read all about our tests of the supplier’s radical Quantum rear-drive axle and TracRite eLS electronic limited-slip differential on our sister site, Ford Authority.