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January 9, 2020 11:00 AM, EST

CES Exhibitors Envision Electric, Automated Future for Trucking

Exhibit hall floor at CES 2020CES 2020 attendees peruse the exhibits at the massive technology show in Las Vegas. (Seth Clevenger/Transport Topics)

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LAS VEGAS — Trucking industry innovators presented their visions for the future of freight here at CES 2020, showcasing technologies ranging from electric-powered trucks and automated driving systems to final-mile software and cybersecurity enhancements.

Truck makers, technology startups and logistics companies were among the exhibitors at the massive annual technology show, being held Jan. 7-10. Organizers expected the event to draw more than 175,000 technology professionals from virtually all industries.

Paccar Inc., the parent of Kenworth and Peterbilt, exhibited at CES for a third consecutive year.

“This is a really exciting time for our industry, and CES has evolved into a really exciting format for Paccar to display and demonstrate the investments that we’re making in future transportation technologies,” said Stephan Olsen, general manager of the Paccar Innovation Center.

The truck manufacturer showcased two battery-electric trucks — a Peterbilt Model 520EV refuse truck and a Kenworth K270E medium-duty cabover designed for local pickup and delivery.

Paccar also demonstrated its commitment to developing self-driving commercial vehicles by showing a Kenworth T680 tractor outfitted with sensors and technology to support automated driving.

Truck leasing and logistics company Ryder System also exhibited at CES. Company experts spoke with attendees about technology trends such as electrification, automated vehicles, e-commerce fulfillment and final-mile logistics.

“Transportation is changing a lot,” said Rich Mohr, chief technology officer for Ryder Fleet Management Solutions.

The technology is probably moving faster in the last three years than in the previous two decades, he added.

Ryder has been working to support its customers as they begin to look at electric and automated vehicles, as well as ways to increase efficiency and supply chain visibility.

“All those things we’ve been working on for years come together in one show, and we can start to display all of the products we have to offer,” Mohr said.

Startup truck maker Nikola Motor Co. brought its hydrogen-electric Nikola Two model to Ryder’s exhibit space at CES.

Nikola's Trevor Milton

Nikola founder and CEO Trevor Milton with his company’s Nikola Two model at the Ryder System booth at CES. (Seth Clevenger/Transport Topics)

Nikola founder and CEO Trevor Milton made the case that the sleek, zero-emission truck can help change perceptions about the transportation industry.

“By having this truck here, we can show people that trucking is no longer this industry that is unattractive,” he said. “It’s a beautiful industry. It’s an industry that you can be proud of being a part of. And we can also solve a lot of problems.”

Milton, who has regularly attended CES for years, said the show’s focus has broadened significantly in recent years as emerging technologies began to revolutionize the automotive industry.

“It was really an electronics show about 10 years ago, and it totally morphed when the automotive industry started becoming cool,” he said.

As was the case in years past, automated vehicle technology remained a significant theme at CES.

In a Jan. 8 keynote address at the show, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the release of “Automated Vehicles 4.0,” an update to the federal government’s guidelines on the development of automated driving technologies.

Self-driving truck startup Plus.ai presented International and Peterbilt tractors outfitted with its automated driving system.

Self-driving truck startup Plus.ai exhibited at CES 2020

Self-driving truck startup showcases International and Peterbilt trucks outfitted with its technology at CES. (Seth Clevenger/Transport Topics)

The company announced at the show that it plans to expand testing of its automated trucks across all states in the continental U.S. this year to help refine its technology in a range of different geographies and conditions.

“One of the critical parts of getting to a product more quickly is to make sure that you expose all the long-tail edge cases that you need to make sure you can handle,” said Shawn Kerrigan, co-founder and chief operating officer at the Cupertino, Calif.-based company. “To make sure we’re doing that efficiently, we want to make sure that we can drive all highways in the United States.”

Plus.ai’s goal is to develop self-driving technology that would enable unmanned trucks to travel between distribution centers in hub-to-hub operations.

Today, however, the company’s test trucks always have two people in the vehicle — a safety driver behind the wheel and a vehicle operations specialist.

The company currently has about a dozen test trucks operating in the United States and a dozen in China.

RoadSigns: A Transport Topics podcast

In our first episode of the new year, we look ahead to trucking's future by looking back. Hear a snippet from host Seth Clevenger, above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.

Meanwhile, the transportation industry continues to wrestle with high costs and inefficiency in the final-mile delivery segment.

Where consumers used to travel to stores to buy products, they now increasingly want those products delivered directly to their doors, but urban transportation infrastructure was not designed for this change in the flow of goods.

“It’s like reverse engineering the entire process,” said Erminio Di Paola, vice president of tracking and positioning at Here Technologies.

At CES, Here launched a technology platform to help e-commerce businesses optimize fleet utilization in the final mile.

Here Last Mile, designed for light vehicle fleets, considers factors such as delivery windows and cost and provides driver tools such as turn-by-turn navigation, traffic information and proof of delivery.

Cybersecurity was another theme at CES.

BlackBerry Ltd. unveiled a vehicle security and health platform supported by artificial intelligence developed by cybersecurity firm Cylance, which Blackberry acquired in early 2019.

The system is designed to detect and eliminate malware or malicious code in vehicle software, proactively scan for anomalies and ensure the identity of the vehicle’s driver.

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