Here's How GM's Trailer Concept Stops a Truck/Trailer Like the Trailer Isn't There

6a017ee6664cf9970d0240a5036d20200b-800wi.jpeg photo by Evan Sears

GM recently announced a new concept to help pickup trucks pulling trailers stop in much shorter distances. This new idea uses a modified version of GM's electro-hydraulic eBoost braking system found in the 2020 GMC Sierra and 2020 Chevrolet Silverado trucks. In the trucks, instead of pulling vacuum from the intake manifold like a traditional brake booster, the system uses an electric actuator to apply pressure to the brake fluid. This system is more efficient, takes up less room and works even when the engine is off.

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How Does It Work on a Trailer?

Having an electric-based system makes the application ideal for trailer brakes, where there is no engine to pull vacuum from. To use the system on a test trailer, GM enhanced the trailer with upgraded rotors, calipers, tires and wheel-speed sensors. The automaker also installed an eBoost controller on the trailer.

Using the standard seven-pin trailer plug, a signal (likely the voltage signal normally sent to the trailer brakes in electric trailer brakes) is sent to the eBoost controller to determine how much braking force to apply. The eBoost controller also monitors the wheel-speed sensors and detects when a skid is occurring and modulates the brakes accordingly. This allows for the maximum braking force to be applied. In GM's tests, the truck and trailer combination stopped 40 feet shorter than an equivalent truck and trailer not equipped with the system.

How Is This Different Than Electric Over Hydraulic Brakes?

While the foundation of the system is similar to electric over hydraulic brake systems already on the market, there are some key differences. Current systems do not include wheel-speed sensors, nor do they have the software and hardware capability for an antilock brake system. GM also said it upgraded the whole brake system and tires. This was likely to get more braking force and better traction to the ground.

What Does This Mean to Me?

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Being able to stop 20% shorter, or 40 feet shorter from 60 mph, is a big deal. That is more than two full car lengths. Forty feet could be the difference between totaling the vehicle in front and stopping drama free with room to spare. We hope GM can fully develop the eBoost trailer brake system and bring it to market. Once the system is proven, it could come factory installed on trailers to avoid the costs and installation issues often involved in aftermarket applications.

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