Daimler Trucks is connecting its trucks with the internet
120 years after the invention of the truck, Daimler Trucks is bringing the truck into the digital age. In doing so, the world’s leading truck manufacturer is demonstrating its technological leadership in the field of connectivity and systematically consolidating its worldwide lead in connected trucks. On 21st March 2016, on the A52 autobahn near Düsseldorf, Germany, Daimler Trucks presented an impressive example of the possibilities opened up by the digital connection of trucks: Three WiFi-connected, autonomously driving trucks operated on the autobahn with authorisation for public traffic as a so-called platoon. Based on the Daimler Trucks Highway Pilot system for autonomously driving heavy trucks, the three trucks linked up to form an aerodynamically optimized, fully automated platoon. Daimler Trucks calls this advanced system development Highway Pilot Connect.
The completely connected truck initiates a radical change in transport which will make traffic even more effective and efficient – not only for drivers, haulers and vehicle manufacturers, but also for society as a whole. The combination can reduce fuel consumption by up to seven percent and the road space requirement on motorways by almost half - while improving traffic safety at the same time.
Bernhard: "We are creating a new, highly efficient and open logistical network."
Dr Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG with responsibility for Daimler Trucks & Buses, explains: “We are connecting the truck with the internet – making him the main data node of the logistics network. It connects all those involved in goods: drivers, schedulers, fleet operators, workshops, manufacturers and insurance companies or authorities. They receive information in real time which was previously unavailable: about the condition of the tractor unit and semitrailer, traffic and weather conditions, the parking availability at motorway service stations, rest areas and much more."
"Our trucks fully connect with their environment, becoming part of the internet and continuously sending and receiving information. All those involved in the logistical process can use this real-time data for their needs. In the future it will, for example, be possible to reduce waiting times while loading and unloading, reduce paperwork and avoid traffic jams. With flash updates over the air or automated transfer of inbound time for trucks heading to the service point maintenance time can be reduced significantly. In this way we are considerably improving the performance of goods transport as a whole. This is an enormous opportunity to intelligently cope with the growing volume of goods traffic. We intend to use it," says Bernhard.
Author, sociologist and futurologist Jeremy Rifkin attended the landmark event in Dusseldorf. He commented: “Today Daimler lays the foundation for the third industrial revolution. In the era of the internet of things all tools and machinery will be equipped with sensors which constantly provide a real time information flow. This will fundamentally change the way we do business. The internet of things is offering completely new opportunities.”
400 sensors in today’s Daimler truck register data of all kinds
The worldwide transport of goods is a prerequisite for economic growth. However, transporting more goods in the future requires innovative solutions if we are to avoid a traffic gridlock. One central approach is to fully network the truck with the internet of things. Daimler's smart trucks have the potential to radically change road goods transport in the coming years. Already today, Daimler Trucks generates valuable information to a previously unimaginable extent with its approximately 400 sensors per vehicle and is fully connected with software including 130 millions of lines of code - more than a passenger jet.
Dr Wolfgang Bernhard: "For efficient logistics real time data is essential - and our trucks supply this data. Therefore we are investing around half a billion euros by 2020 to connect our trucks with their enviroment and develop specific new applications. This will enhance our customers’ performance to operate their businesses safer and more environmentally friendly. FleetBoard and Detroit Connect will help considerably to leverage previously unharvested potential in road transport - both in the highly developed triad markets and in the emerging economies of Africa, Asia and Latin America."
FleetBoard has been a leader in telematics services for trucks for 15 years – in future it will be the nucleus of the new unit Digital Solutions & Services
Connectivity is no new territory for Daimler Trucks. The subsidiary FleetBoard has been setting standards in telematics for Mercedes-Benz since 2000, and is among the world's most successful and innovative providers. FleetBoard collects a wealth of status, tour and position data from the vehicle and sends it to headquarters via mobile phone. At present there are around 180,000 vehicles with FleetBoard systems in operation with around 6000 customers.
"When the first iPhone was introduced in November 2007, our customers had already been using FleetBoard for seven years. For over 15 years they have now been able to control their fleet and driver management efficiently both in their Mercedes-Benz trucks and in those from other manufacturers. Nobody has greater experience in this field than Mercedes-Benz Trucks," says Stefan Buchner, Head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
To ensure that it remains ahead in the development of new digital solutions related to the connected truck, on 1 April 2016 Mercedes-Benz is establishing the new unit Digital Solutions & Services headed by Dr. Daniela Gerd Tom Markotten, who has many years of experience in the field of IT supported vehicle telematics. This unit, which will also have FleetBoard GmbH as a nucleus, will direct all activities concerning digital applications for Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles – in close cooperation with the other divisions of the company.
Autonomous truck platooning lowers fuel consumption and CO2
Connected vehicles in a platoon require a distance of only 15 instead of 50 metres between them. This considerably smaller distance produces a significant reduction in aerodynamic drag – comparable to slipstream riding in cycling competitions. In this way a platoon of three trucks can achieve a fuel saving of around seven percent, reducing CO2 emissions in the same measure.
In parallel with this, platooning allows much more efficient use of the road space: thanks to the shorter distance between vehicles, a platoon of three linked trucks has a length of only 80 metres. In contrast to this, three trucks which are not electronically docked require a total of 150 metres of road space. At the same time platooning makes road traffic much safer: while a human behind the wheel has a reaction time of 1.4 seconds, Highway Pilot Connect transmits braking signals to the vehicles behind in less than 0.1 seconds. This considerably reduced reaction time can make a major contribution towards reducing rear-end collisions such as occur e.g. when encountering traffic jams on motorways.
Major advantage: automatic steering also when not connected to the platoon
The great advantage of Highway Pilot Connect is this: because of their technology, all the members of such a platoon continue to be autonomously driving trucks. They are able to maintain their direction independently of the vehicle ahead, and thanks to their combination of linear and lateral guidance, they can react to unexpected situations at any time. This also applies if other vehicles cut into or leave the platoon's space. In this case the vehicle can smoothly disengage from the platoon and continue alone in autonomous mode. The driver does not need to intervene.
Docking three or more vehicles together becomes particularly interesting in countries with a corresponding infrastructure. In the USA or Australia, for example, trucks cover long distances without bridges and exit roads on highways crossing the entire continent.
Focus on data security
Self-determination for the customer is at the forefront for Daimler where the use of connected services is concerned. Daimler attaches high data protection and data security standards to developments in these new technology and innovation areas. In the case of FleetBoard, high-performance computers in the European Data Center at Daimler AG in Stuttgart guarantee secure processing of the data and their encrypted transfer around the clock. Thus FleetBoard's data security is on a par with the high standard used in banks.
Experts expect the worldwide volume of road goods traffic to triple by 2050
75 percent of goods transport in Europe continues to go by road. Experts expect the worldwide volume of goods carried by road to triple by 2050. By networking trucks with other vehicles and their surroundings, the entire goods transport sector can be organised to be safer, faster and at the same time more environmentally friendly. In view of the increasing flow of goods, the strain on the infrastructure and a sensitive environment, these are very promising prospects for society and all those involved in goods transport.