Connected trucks. Towards future transport

Connectivity solutions are radically transforming the transportation sector. The wide variety of data that trucks can send and receive is opening up completely new opportunities for the entire logistics chain.

Thanks to their approximately 400 sensors, state-of-the-art trucks are already generating valuable information. Moreover, their software contains 100 million lines of code — more than in that of a jet plane. This data can be used to develop services for enhancing the performance of road freight traffic and making it more efficient.

Multi-brand connectivity standards

Connectivity has been an integral part of the Daimler Trucks strategy since 2013. Daimler has hundreds of thousands of connected trucks worldwide — more than any other manufacturer. Daimler Trucks also sets digital standards that extend across numerous brands and markets. For example, Daimler’s three flagship long-haul trucks — the Mercedes-Benz Actros, Freightliner Cascadia, and FUSO Super Great — share the same electric/electronic architecture. All three heavy-duty trucks also have the same “Common Telematics Platform”. This connectivity module is the “brain” of a connected truck. It receives and transmits data in real time and is the interface for all connectivity-related services. Like a smartphone, it uses Bluetooth, the mobile communication network, and GPS to communicate with the traffic infrastructure, with other vehicles, and with other systems that are involved in the logistics process.

Smart fleet management

The Fleetboard system for Mercedes-Benz, Detroit Connect for Freightliner, and Truckonnect for FUSO connect fleet operators’ entire logistics systems and provide drivers and dispatchers with an overview of all the essential data at a glance. Increasingly sophisticated solutions ensure that each truck is employed as efficiently as possible. For example, the Fleetboard Store contains useful apps that were specifically developed for trucks by Daimler and third-party providers. One of these apps, Fleetboard nxtload, enables users to avoid empty runs by simultaneously searching for suitable cargoes at several online freight exchanges with only a single click of the mouse.

Increasing vehicle availability

Connectivity not only helps our customers manage their fleets but also reduces the downtimes of their trucks. For example, Mercedes-Benz Uptime, Detroit Connect Virtual Technician, and the Truckonnect telediagnosis system continuously monitor the operation of the vehicle technology as well as the levels of the various vehicle fluids. If repairs or maintenance are needed, the systems automatically notify the fleet operator and the workshop. Critical situations are thus detected early on so that they can be resolved before the vehicle breaks down. In addition, such systems enable workshop appointments to be efficiently combined. This feature saves our customers time and improves their bottom line, because they only make money when their trucks are on the road.

Platooning: combining connectivity and autonomous driving

The Highway Pilot Connect system shows what the combination of connectivity and autonomous driving might make possible in the future. The system enables trucks to be electronically linked to form platoons on highways and major secondary roads.

When driving in a platoon, each connected truck can be as close as 15 meters to the next, rather than the 50 meters that are normally required. Greater distances are only required at exits and entryways. Platooning thus greatly reduces air resistance in a manner similar to the slipstream riding in bicycle races.

For example, a three-truck platoon reduces fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by around seven percent. As a result, a loaded semitrailer rig with a total weight of 40 tons can consume as little as 25 l/100 km. This translates into fuel consumption of only 0.66 l/100 km per ton and CO2 emissions of 13.3 grams per ton-kilometer. These values are much lower than those of any passenger car with a combustion engine.

Platooning also enables road space to be used more efficiently. The smaller distances between the vehicles reduce the length of a three-truck platoon to only 80 meters, whereas three trucks that are not electronically coupled require a total of 150 meters of road space.

At the same time, platooning makes road traffic safer. Whereas a human being behind the wheel has a reaction time of 1.4 seconds, Highway Pilot Connect forwards a braking signal to the vehicles behind the braking truck in less than 0.1 seconds. This considerably shortened reaction time can greatly help reduce the number of rear-end collisions.

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