SAE Media recently participated with Brembo in a demonstration of the company’s new braking technology on the skid pad at the Michelin Laurens Proving Grounds in Mountville, South Carolina. Dubbed SENSIFY, the system is the company’s latest demonstration of an intelligent braking design.
Brembo bills SENSIFY as its “most advanced braking system, designed to ensure the best driving experience and total safety.” The system integrates a hydraulic actuator, a series of brake-control units and a pedal simulator with vehicle sensors so that braking at each wheel can be controlled independently.
“SENSIFY serves as another significant step forward in advancing safe, data-driven solutions and sustainability initiatives seen across the automotive industry,” said Daniele Schillaci, Brembo’s CEO. “This new system uses artificial intelligence to provide drivers a unique driving experience.”
By optimizing the independent braking action of each wheel, SENSIFY provides a greater degree of control for the driver under normal and panic situations. Brembo states that the system also is capable of controlling pad position, which minimizes drag between pads and discs, improving fuel consumption and range of ICE vehicles and EVs.
Brembo also said that SENSIFY offers greater flexibility for OEMs by simplifying braking-system integration into any electric, hybrid or ICE platform thanks to features such as customizable pedal response, increased stability and control and improved regenerative braking. The design architecture reportedly can be scaled to suit the braking needs of everything from hypercars to commercial vehicles.
Devil in the details
Though on the surface Brembo’s SENSIFY system may seem more evolutionary than revolutionary, it is the integration of the system’s components that makes the SENSIFY unique.
“SENSIFY is the tangible implementation of our mission to become a provider of cutting-edge technology in the field of automotive braking,” said Schillaci. “For many decades, the braking systems we’ve been providing have been applying braking pressure on all four wheels simultaneously. SENSIFY can independently manage the braking forces on each wheel according to the driver’s needs, vehicle dynamics and road conditions.”
By managing brake application independently, Brembo claims the system will offer the best performance in all conditions. Brembo also said the system is adjustable to customize braking response according to driving-style preferences and conditions.
“The brake system as we know it today is no longer the sum of parts,” Schillaci explained. “It is becoming an ecosystem where AI and software play an active role. We’re leveraging data collection to improve the driver’s experience and allowing the system to be constantly updated and improved. We’re also creating a platform that includes software, predictive algorithms, and data management which will allow an active contribution to the cars handling.”
The system consists of a pedal simulator with an integrated pressure sensor, a tandem of brake control units to control front and rear channels, and either a hydraulic actuator or an electronic connection depending on brake-system application. Brake-by-wire systems also will feature an electromechanical caliper. Conversely, wet systems will feature electro-hydraulic actuators.
While SENSIFY is capable of operation in a completely dry/brake-by-wire configuration, it also can be implemented using traditional wet (hydraulically actuated) calipers. Brembo explained that certain markets, such as China, still require a wet system for redundancy purposes. There also are applications, such as hypercars and motorsports, for which the unspring rotating mass of an electric caliper is not desirable. As such, SENSIFY was designed to work with wet, dry, or tandem systems.
Brembo turned SAE Media loose on the skid pad at the Michelin Proving Grounds to experience SENSIFY firsthand. Our test bed for the system was a pair of Tesla Model 3s. One of the vehicles was equipped with the OEM Tesla-spec system, while another was outfitted with SENSIFY using wet front and dry rear circuits.
The track exercises began with straight-line panic stops on wet and dry surfaces from 75 mph (120 kph). A control test was performed in a stock Model 3 before hopping into the SENSIFY-equipped car for comparison. For those who have experienced full ABS actuation on a modern vehicle, the SENSIFY system will require some recalibration of senses: when full pedal pressure is applied, no hydraulic pulses are felt by the driver. Instead, the system modulates brake pressure at each wheel based on feedback from the vehicle’s sensors and surface mu.
While the lack of pressure feedback through the pedal may at first disorient seasoned drivers, it becomes easy to trust the system after a few hard stomps. The finite control that the SENSIFY system has over each individual wheel translates to greater fidelity at the vehicle’s limits even when full braking force is being applied. This was especially apparent in the handling portion of the on-track session.
The handling test was held on a wet and dry skid pad with panic stops from 50-70 mph (80-113 km/h). The course consisted of sweeping and decreasing-radius turns with panic-stop sections on wet and dry pavement. Some of the panic stops involved an obstacle-avoidance maneuver through a chicane delineated by cones while at full brake pressure. These maneuvers truly demonstrated the capabilities and advantages of the SENSIFY system. While the OEM Tesla brake system acquitted itself well in these maneuvers, the Brembo system provided noticeably improved maneuverability and agility.
SAE Media also requested a demonstration of the system’s reaction time via an unplanned test on the straight-line skid pad. We performed our test at the same speed, but rather than braking solely on the dry or wet pavement, we applied full pressure on the dry pavement in close proximity to the wet portion of the skid pad to experience the systems reaction time on surfaces with markedly different friction coefficients. We also performed the test in reverse by applying full pressure on the wet pavement and transitioning onto dry. In both instances, the system’s reactions and operation were completely seamless.
Brembo has gone to great lengths to emphasize that SENSIFY was designed to be an intelligent platform meant not only to streamline integration into modern vehicles, but also to provide drivers with greater control and safety. The panic-stop and obstacle-avoidance maneuvers at Michelin’s Proving Grounds demonstrated that this system is very close to production readiness and may be one of the largest steps forward in braking technology in decades.
Brembo stated that one of the biggest advantages of SENSIFY over conventional braking systems is the much faster time to lock. Company representatives stated that the time to lock for the SENSIFY system is about 100 milliseconds, versus a conventional system, which requires about 180 milliseconds. Another major advantage of the new system is how tailorable it is to individual vehicles and drivers. Brembo revealed that even will be a dedicated app for drivers to monitor braking behavior and receive coaching on how to best utilize the brakes.
From the driver’s seat, there was an overall impression that the future of braking has arrived. The SENSIFY system provides many attributes that are going to be desirable for modern drivers. The majority of passenger vehicles have become a serene experience to drive, thanks to continued efforts to reduce NVH and the proliferation of EVs also will remove much of the noise coming from under the hood to an all-time low.
The downside to these advances is that the activation of a conventional ABS system in a panic situation is a very stark contrast to the feedback to which drivers currently are accustomed. The SENSIFY system removes that unpleasant sensation from the driver while also providing them with a greater degree of control in emergency maneuvers. While Brembo has not yet announced an official date or vehicle on which the system will debut, the company said it is confident the system will be production-ready by 2024.Continue reading »