Innovations from outer space coming soon to a truck near you.

Camless diesel engine since 1999

Can you imagine your diesel engine idling on 3 cylinders or having 3 compression strokes to one exhaust stroke? How  about an engine brake like the big boys instead of a exhaust brake on your pickup diesel? Or having your left cheek vibrating along with a buzzer when you cross the yellow line heading toward ongoing traffic. There are important innovations very close to reality as truck options, that even the late Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame, couldn't have dreamed up. From camless engines that can on demand switch from a 4-stroke to a 2-stoke to even a 8-stroke, to gyro's similar to what cruise missiles use, telling computers to control the speed and brakes on your trucks, even steering with the truck's brakes. It's exciting and even hard to imagine. This new technology can make it possible for diesels to lead the way for clean air, similar to the direction Europe is heading verses the hydrogen cell solution that is getting the press and political support in this country. Another leading edge technology, is the camless engine. Camless engines are alive and well, with Bosch, announcing their entry into the camless race earlier in 2003.


Sturman Industries started developing the camless diesel engine in 1995 as a natural progression from their electro-magnetic digital valve actuator already developed for fuel injectors for International in 1993. Sturman Industries founded by Eddie Sturman, using technology he developed for the retro rockets of the Apollo spacecraft, uses residual magnetism in a digital valve to open and close valves or control the hydraulic pressure activating fuel injectors. The 6.0L Ford Power Stroke diesel introduced in 03 uses the Sturman Industries digital valve in the SDST injectors manufactured by a joint Venture of Navistar/Siemens AG

Sturman DHOS™ Valve Actuation Module

The high power to mass ratio of electrohydraulic actuators facilitates the development of camless engines where timing the lift and closing of the intake and exhaust valves for different engine speed and load conditions has the potential to improve efficiency and torque and reduce emissions.

In its simplest form the design of the DHOS™ Valve Actuation Module consists of an electrohydraulic actuator (featuring a Sturman Digital Valve) acting upon a spring returned engine valve. The replacement of the mechanical valvetrain with a fully variable camless actuation system provides the operational flexibility required to control mass transfer of intake air and exhaust into and out of the engine cylinders.

The return spring on the valve acts as a failsafe to insure the valve would close incase of hydraulic failure and not damage the engine.

Picture courtesy of Sturman Industries


Near the middle of a mountain range near Woodland Park Colorado, with a view of Pikes Peak (14,110 ft.) shared by the engineers on all 4 floors at Sturman Industries, magic happens. This facility that looks more like a Ski Lodge than the international R&D center it is, to inspire the creativity needed to develop the ideas from Eddie Sturman and his motivated engineers. In an interview with Carol Sturman, president of Sturman Industries, I learned of some of the possibilities with Sturman digital valves. The dramatic difference between analog and digital, relates to electrohydraulic actuators as well as cell phones and PC's.  Co-founders Carol and Eddie Sturman lead their company with a philosophy of improving the earth by creating a efficient clean burning engine. Imagine again first to rid the engine of camshafts, rocker arms, pushrods, lifters, bearings, timing gears, etc. And as you Dodge diesel folks know, your inline 6-cylinder engine has 30% less parts than a V-8 diesel, now it's possible to have even less parts to wear and drag on engine power and fuel economy. With a lighter, faster, more fuel efficient and cleaner burning engine in diesel or gas.

Using a digital valve to control how much, how often, and how fast each individual engine intake and exhaust valve moves, is were it starts. This control is why the camless engine would have free quieter engine braking capability with engine braking each stroke and quicker engine warm-up. Yes engine braking like the big boys. Even having 3 compression strokes before an exhaust stroke to use up all the fuel and less need for after treated exhaust. Sturman's digital valves would enable you to change the valve settings, seating velocity and duration etc. like having a 3/4 RV cam, full race cam or anywhere in-between, providing lower end towing torque and a cooler running engine with less NOx emissions. With so many variations possible with the digital valve controlling better engine breathing at all rpm's, individual variable cylinder compression ratio's, you could even shut the engine down to just 3 cylinders when idling for noise reduction and less fuel consumption. Just shutting off a diesel would be quicker without the shudder by digitally controlling the valves to all close.

Sturman Industries World Headquarters, looks like a ski lodge just north of Pikes Peak nestled in the Colorado Rockies. Working there couldn't be called work, I saw the fireplaces, pool table and sun decks. Even ports for your laptop on the south deck. Eddie and Carol Sturman wanted their people to all share in the view with large windows on the south side.  I felt like John Denver just visiting. It makes sense to have your company located in the middle of nature when your company philosophy is improve the environment.

I've been invited back to the mountain at Sturman's to drive one of their two famous Navistar medium duty trucks that have already toured 10,000 miles of the country with camless diesel engines. In 2000 Sturman Industries sponsored the famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb after already climbing the mountain to it's 14,110 ft. peak with their camless diesel truck. Where else would you test a diesel truck? I'll report back after my test drive when I'm "back to the future."

David Burt, Sturman engineer, gave me a tour of the R&D facility near Woodland Park, Colorado. We looked over rows of sophisticated testing equipment, with dyno testing cells.  In high altitude, they have to do some work to stimulate sea level. It's an advantage testing diesels at high altitudes. According to Burt, Sturman Industries are working close with the EPA and Department of Energy in developing a clean burning diesel. Which I'm glad to see progress in diesel as an alternative fuel for the future with government evolvement. Sturman's commitment to safety is one of the reasons their products are low pressure common rail with the high fuel pressure intensifying  inside the injector.

With Sturman digital valve injectors in development in 1993, and production in 2002, don't be surprised to see the Sturman digital camless engine out before the Tier 2 emissions go into effect in 2007. Then next it looks like the Sturman's Combustion Cell with integrated digital fuel injection and valve actuation together in individual cylinder unit's.

Gas engines can have their own advantages using the digital valve. Sturman's test engine has run at 15,000 rpm's. A gas engines throttle plate would be eliminating using the variable valve lift to control air flow. 16% fuel mileage improvement has occurred on gas engine testing. And the much talked about cylinder deactivation is possible with the Sturman Digital valve. Of course again, it works with gas engines too, when you can control valve timing and air flow you get more low-end torque.

Sturman's have tested a VW Jetta with their digital injectors. They are working with VW on using renewable fuel from Biomass. Imagine growing fuel, using it and the exhaust from your engine feeds the growing fuel. Sound like Lion King's the "Circle of Life."   

Sturman Industries are building products for 8 major engine OEM's as well as the EPA and Department of Energy. So we shall see who brings the camless diesel to a pickup truck first and second and etc.

My tour included rows and rows of testing machinery for high pressure hydraulics. Looked like NASA. Sturman's make all the components they use in prototype testing. A lot of brain power there!

Sturman DHOS™ Injector

The application of electrohydraulic actuators in fuel injectors provides the ability to control the rate of injection such that fuel economy is improved and emissions of hydrocarbons and NOx can be reduced.

The incorporation of the Sturman Digital Valve into the design of the injector provides operational flexibility in the control of main and pilot fuel quantity, timing, and duration.

The Sturman DHOS™ injector has the capability of electronically controlling the rate of injection (ROI) characteristics needed to meet future engine, emissions, noise, and drivability requirements.


The 6.0L Ford Power Stroke diesel introduced in 03 uses the Sturman Industries digital valve in the SDST injectors manufactured by a joint Venture of Navistar/Siemens AG

The digital valve is the trigger, hydraulics are the driving force in the high pressure injector from a low pressure common rail system.

Picture courtesy of Sturman Industries

From the original Hydraulic Electronic Unit Injection (HEUI) diesel injector (above third from left) developed by Caterpillar and International to the smaller more efficient electrohydraulic Sturman prototypes (above next to HEUI with smaller barrels) from Sturman Industries licensed to Siemens Diesel Systems Technology for production in Navistar/International diesels including the 6.0L Ford Power Stroke. The SDST G-2 smaller Sturman valve actuated fuel injector, built in Columbia SC, allowed Ford/Navistar to go from 2 valves per cylinder to 4 valves in the 03 6.0L Power Stroke diesel. The fuel injection system in Navistar diesels uses low pressure common rail (3000 psi) in the heads where the high pressure is built up in the injector verses Duramax and common rail Cummins using high pressure external common rail being forced into the injector.

The 03 Ford Power Stroke, has had it's share of problems. So for 04 Ford, is  moving the Injection Control Pressure sensor to the front of the engine, using longer glow plugs, and an anti-foam Stanadyne additive to prevent foaming in a diesel engine with the largest oil capacity of the big three. The Ford Navistar diesel hold 15 quarts including the filter. Part of this oil capacity functions as the hydraulics for the low pressure common rail fuel injection and actuating the new in 03 variable turbo called EVRT. Also Ford has discontinued using the pilot injection introduced in the 03 Power Stroke 6.0L model according to Roger Judson Product Design Engineer for Ford. Pilot injection was introduced in the 03 Power Stroke to lower noise and reduce NOx emissions. GM's Duramax lead the way in 01 with pilot injection, with the Dodge common rail Cummins pilot injection also introduced in the 03 model.

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Lane Departure Warning System

"Martha my butt's vibrating!" Calm down Henry, it's just the new lane departure accessory I bought you for Christmas to keep you from falling asleep at the wheel again." The lane departure warning system called  Autovue™ by Iteris is on hundreds of semi-trucks now across the country, testing the effectiveness of left and right non intentional lane change warning.  Where I live in Colorado we have snowplows. So the lane bumps you see in states like California and Nevada aren't possible, for long anyway.

Iteris is the company that manufactures management systems, sensors and camera's for traffic light intersection management. No not all those camera's are taking your picture for running a red light or speeding. Iteris camera's monitor traffic and the computer system manage which lanes have the most traffic and need a longer signal.

This same technology tracks lane markings to give you "Lane Departure Warning." Your turn signal deactivates it when you want to change lanes without the warning. There are warning lights, left and right speaker, and on deluxe models offered on semi trucks, a left and right seat vibrator. That would explain some smiling truck drivers.


Unintended lane departures are the single largest cause of fatalities on U.S. highways. Over 43 percent of all fatal accidents in 2001 reported lane or road departures as a contributing factor. (Source:  NHTSA FARS database.)  Rumble strips on the outside of the road have been proven to reduce lane departure accidents by 30-55 percent. But we all can't have those bumps. Iteris’ LDW System is a small, integrated unit consisting of a camera, onboard computer and software that attaches to the windshield, dashboard or overhead.

Iteris’ LDW System is programmed to recognize the difference between the road and lane markings. The unit's camera tracks visible lane markings and continually feeds the information directly into the unit's computer, which combines this data with the vehicle's speed. Using image recognition software and Iteris proprietary algorithms, the computer can detect when a vehicle begins to drift toward an unintended lane change. When this occurs, the unit automatically emits the commonly known rumble strip sound, alerting the driver to make a correction. When activated, Iteris’ LDW System works effectively both day and night and where lane markings are visible.

I drove a Ford F150 with this system in Denver. It picked up the perimeters of the lanes well even in area's of construction where there where new lines on top of old lines.


Additional features include:

·         An Active Headlamp Control algorithm that senses ambient light and automatically turns the headlamps on or off.  An enhancement to this feature resides in its ability to sense tunnels approaching and activate the headlamps at the beginning of the tunnel.

·         A Rain Sensing feature that can be used to turn windshield wipers on and control their speed. I wonder if they vibrate.

·         A Blind Spot Warning feature that monitors the adjacent lanes of the vehicle.  If the driver signals his intention to change lanes, an audible warning is generated if there is a vehicle already occupying that space. I could use this in Denver.

Iteris first announced their AutoVue™ Lane Departure Warning System in 1999. In 2000 DaimlerChrysler Venture GmbH invested in Iteris to adopt the in-vehicle sensor in DaimlerChrysler commercial vehicles and passenger cars. That same year Mercedes adds it as an option to the new Actros trucks in Europe. Freightliner offers the Iteris "Lane Guidance" as an option in 2002 on Century and Argosy trucks.


The Autovue camera that tracks all visible lane markings mounted behind the rearview mirror. This prototype box is refined and smaller in the Mercedes Benz car of course.

Electronic Stability Control, understanding Vehicle Dynamics


Now here is were the cruise missile gyro's mentioned at the beginning of my article, come into the story.  Skidding out of control on slick roads, curves or the moose in the road, is the purpose of  Continental Automotive Systems, Electronic Stability Control (ESC.)  With 700 rollovers a day in this country, the subject is important and the solution is now available on many vehicles. As usual, trucks are on the bottom of the technology option list with luxury cars at the top. The 2004 Nissan Titan truck I reviewed had Electronic Stability Control. It's an option on all major SUV's now and standard on most European luxury cars.


But trucks could benefit the most being nose heavy empty and rear heavy loaded. If you've experienced driving a 4x2 truck without a load on slick roads, you know what I'm talking about. Even a 4x4 truck with no weight in the bed can be squirrelly when the weather turns ugly. Anti-Spin or limited slip differentials can help in those situations. Cars have the option of traction control, which is just ABS brakes being applied to the spinning wheel so the opposite wheel has traction, like turning brakes on a farm tractor. ABS (anti-lock brake system) and TSC (traction control system) are a big part of ESC.


ESC with it's microcomputers starts the process of giving you back control of your vehicle, when the sensors detect a problem before you do. The sensors, wheel speed sensors, steering wheel angle sensor (steering wheel angle and input rate), yaw sensor (the gyro, vehicles rotation around it's vertical axis), and lateral acceleration sensor, (acceleration of the vehicles vertical axis, side to side motion). All this in milliseconds, actually 140 signals to the ECU (control computer) a second where the appropriate action is calculated and implemented in less than a second. Faster than me on a good day.


Basically there are three components to Electronic Stability Control. The Gyro which is located near the vehicles center of gravity next to the Yaw axis. The Gyro detects motion whether, it's the trucks pitch or roll and tells the computer what's happening and the steering sensor tells the computer if you are steering in a different direction than your truck is heading. The second component of a ESC is decelerating the engine and then the computer tells each brake through the ABS system with traction control, which of the four or combination of brakes, how to steer the vehicle in the direction you intended it. This is an over simplification of the process but in real life if works seamlessly and very fast.


The system automatically detects impending wheel lock up, wheel spin or loss of vehicle control. Then regulates speed, and applies brakes where need to control the vehicle when you can't. Continental partnered with Volvo,  to give us a first hand experience driving Volvo XC90 SUV with ESC. Our test track was an empty parking lot big enough to land 737's at Coors Field baseball park. A water truck assisted in giving us a slick surface. A couple of courses were set up with cones simulating a quick lane change and a sharp curve, on ramp. On the quick lane change on slick asphalt, the Volvo handed great, no loss of traction or skidding. On the sharp curve I held my line and didn't get pushed to the outside, the ESC corrects the oversteer and fish tailing you normally get by applying the outside front brake. I love these test drives, it's not my car!


I know it seems strange steering with brakes on slick conditions, because we are use on not using brakes in bad conditions. But when a computer can manage all the data coming in from sensors in a second or two, using the pulsating ABS brakes to brake just a little and not lock up, it does work. But because of the complexity of it, education is the key to spreading the word that ESC can and does save lives. To see what it's like with and without it on the same vehicle driving the same course, makes me a believer as we were able to shut ours off in the Volvo XC90 SUV test vehicles. The majority of SUV's now have their branded names of ESC available as an option. Nissan Titan is the only full size truck with the option in 2004. Hopefully it will soon be an option on pickup trucks.


By the way Continental Teves makes the majority of ESC systems, each manufacture likes to create it's own name, like Electronic Stability Program for DaimlerChrysler, GM StabiliTrack, Ford AdvanceTrac, Nissan Vehicle Dynamic Control, and Toyota calls theirs Vehicle Stability Control. The Society of Automotive Engineers, (SAE)  will soon make the official term ESC so we can talk about the same thing as with ABS and SRS.


In situations where you would need and use ESC, it would happen faster than you could react, which is part of the benefit. In an understeer and oversteer situation ESC would use pulsing individual brakes to help steer in your intended direction. Say if you were skidding to the right in a snow storm while you where steering to the left, in milliseconds the ESC system knows the vehicle is traveling to the right because of  the steering sensor and the gyro in the yaw stability system tells the computer you are skidding. So the front right brake is pulsated to steer left and and the same time the ESC computer slows the engine down.


On another day of testing Volvo XC90's with Volvo, I was taught their "Moose Maneuver". Must be moose in Sweden, though my grandparents didn't mention it. But it does sound like a good idea to avoid hitting the moose in the middle of the road. Here in Colorado we have a similar experience with Elk. An animal that big could probably do more damage coming threw your windshield and setting next to you than rolling your vehicle down the ditch unless the ditch is a few hundred yards straight down, then another decision would have to be considered. But anyway, after a demonstration, on an open stretch of pavement at 40 mph, I swerved from outside line to opposite outside line and survived. It was scary and the SUV did lean quite a bit but I never lost control and if there had been a moose in the road I probably would have missed it. The Volvo XC90 SUV has ESC and their Roll Stability Control, so besides controlling the vehicle it also keeps the shiny side up and the greasy side down. A good thing.


Another advance with ESC is coming from Delphi and will be first seen in GM trucks using the Quadrasteer. So along with the computer assisting with ABS to steer the vehicle in the direction you intended, Four-Wheel-Steer integrated with Traxxar will help correct direction by steering the rear wheels. We're getting closer to driving like the "Jetsons."

Continental had a water truck pouring water on our course. We needed it, the press can get carried away in our search for knowledge. The XC90 Volvo is all-wheel drive and doing evasive maneuvers on dry pavement can get exciting with too much traction. But water on the asphalt did show how well Electronic Stability Control works when you need it. Notice a few knocked over cones in the picture above, that's how you know we are professional drivers, not. Continental Automotive Systems is a division of Continental Teves North America. The folks who pioneered ABS brakes. They make tires too.

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