Rivian’s attention to detail on its all-electric vehicles is laudable, and a recent patent application by the outdoor adventure company for monitoring brake wear continues that theme. In an application titled “Methods, Systems, and Media for Non-Contact Brake Pad Wear Determination”, a method of estimating the wear on individual breaks via computer algorithms is described. Once calculated, the information is then made available to drivers for planning purposes via the infotainment screen on the R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV. The application published on August 1, 2019 under US Patent Publication No. 2019/0234475.
The background of Rivian’s application stated the following reasons why the invention is needed:
“Current approaches for determining brake pad wear…tend to merely indicate when brake pads are fully worn, for example, using a brake pad indicator that causes the brakes to squeal when the indicator contacts the brake disc or that causes an indication on a dashboard of the vehicle to be presented. It may be useful for a driver to know a current wear condition of the brake pads before the brake pads are fully worn, for example, to plan for vehicle maintenance. However, it can be difficult to determine a current wear of the brake pads.”
While not an official reason listed on the patent, one could also assume brake squealing as an annoying sound in itself would also merit the invention’s usefulness as a reliable preventative.
Overall, Rivian’s application calculates the amount of wear on its vehicles’ brakes by comparing data points gathered from two braking events. The amount of pressure applied plus the distance traveled at two different intervals is collected, then compared to a brake database, and an estimate of the mileage left before a change is needed is provided to the driver. The calculation can also include the driver’s braking history to more accurately reflect the mileage. In other words, if you’re a bit rough on the brake pedal, Rivian’s software will take that into account and probably shorten the mileage you have left before needing replacement parts compared to someone that drives…differently. Here’s the formal language for this ability:
“In some embodiments, the method further comprises associating a braking profile with an operator of the vehicle, wherein the indication of the wear amount of the brake pad includes a number of miles until the brake pad requires replacement that is estimated based on the associated braking profile.”
The method described in the claims of the application that calculate the wear on the brakes indicates a process initiated by the driver, i.e., the driver initiates a brake wear test on the center touchscreen and uses the brakes at two intervals as instructed by the vehicle’s computer to determine the wear percentage. However, the description of the application indicates that the brake testing can also happen in real-time during normal operation. The formal language for this reads as follows:
“…In some embodiments, [the testing] process…can receive a group of brake caliper measurements and corresponding brake pedal travel distances…during application of the brake pedal during normal operation of the vehicle…Additionally, in some such embodiments, [the testing] process can present indications of brake pad wear at any suitable time, such as a next time the vehicle is turned on, and/or at any other suitable time.”
This application is yet the latest nod towards Rivian’s development of a comfortable and luxury driving experience for its vehicle owners. The car maker’s branding as an outdoor electric adventure company really seems to have embraced its mission to get people outside exploring more by making the experience as convenient as possible. Whether it’s ample storage capacity, swapping out cargo modules, extending battery range with a digital jerry can, a portable kitchen built specifically for the R1T pickup truck, or now, being able to easily plan ahead for basic vehicle maintenance by checking a screen, Rivian is continuing its march against barriers to enjoying nature anywhere.
There’s a new phrase that seems to be developing based off of an old one about willpower: “Where there’s a Rivian, there’s a way.”