Vehicle connectivity innovations will soon change the face of the trucking industry, reshaping everything from maintenance practices to driver productivity, according to Goran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North America.
“People under 25 have never lived one day without the Internet and connectivity. Their expectations are different (from previous generations). In a few years they will be in management positions and they will have different expectations when it comes to connectivity. We need to think differently,” Nyberg told Volvo customers and business media gathered for the event.
Volvo is already starting to employ the “different thinking” Nyberg called for with its focus on platooning vehicle technology. Such technology, where trucks can communicate with each other and team up to follow a lead vehicle, is technology that is possible today because it can be applied to existing vehicles and infrastructure, provided the regulations that would allow its use on North American highways was available, said Susan Alt, senior vice president of public affairs for Volvo Group North America. Vehicles operating in platoon mode are able to greatly reduce the following distance between them than is currently acceptable thanks to the onboard sensors. By tightening up the following distance significant drafting advantages are created which improve fuel economy.
Two-truck platooning provides advantages over running B-trains because the two tractor combinations are not tied to each other and don’t even need to be from the same company to enjoy the advantages of better fuel efficiency while travelling the continent’s highways, pointed out Jeff Cotner, Volvo’s chief designer. Drivers in the following vehicles would get a chance to rest since their vehicles would simply be following the motions of the driver in the lead vehicle. And eventually the following vehicles could be driverless, according to Nyberg.
“If we can have road trains in the future with the following vehicles running driverless, it will improve the driver shortage,” Nyberg said.
Bruce Daccord of Transcourt indicates this revolution will improve safety with tanker trailers both dry and liquid tankers. Automation and connectivity will provide a material increase in the overall safety record in North America once fully introduced.
Predictive shifting is another area where connectivity can change the face of trucking, improving safety and productivity. For example, as the truck approaches a hill, preprogrammed information on the terrain allows the truck to handle the climb and descent in the most efficient manner. As the truck comes into the hill it is automatically sped up to delay downshifting, then the truck’s momentum and stored energy is employed on the downhill portion to accelerate and get better roll off.
“Remote diagnostics is something we are putting a lot of focus on. We believe it will be one of the game changers in the industry,” Nyberg said. “We need to change the mindset. It’s not acceptable to have an unplanned stop. That’s a vision that we need to strive towards.” Remote diagnostics capabilities lead to 70% reduction in diagnostic time and a 22% reduction in repair time, Nyberg said.
“The wireless workshop is coming. Vehicles will self evaluate and will be repaired remotely via wireless updates,” was the prediction from Rich Ferguson, senior vice president, aftermarket and soft products.