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September 20, 2018 10:45 AM, EDT

Editorial: Making Connections at IAA

Connectivity was all the rage during this week’s media preview for the IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hanover, Germany, with many manufacturers touting the value and capability of the technologies they’re developing and deploying for their customers.

Leaders from some of the industry’s top companies acknowledge that they want customers to feel that onboard safety and communications technologies on their trucks are just as indispensable as the smartphones to which consumers are so tethered — and which plenty of media relied on to photograph and record the goings on.

While there is certainly a competitive streak when it comes to attracting customers, truck makers and suppliers alike agree that it’s all about serving customer needs, even needs they may not have realized they had.

The ever-improving safety systems on display at the show demonstrate just how far the industry has come in developing ways to keep drivers and pedestrians out of harm’s way. And the many ways fleets and drivers can connect — to each other and to the equipment — make the business of keeping the wheels turning easier.

Electrical connections that keep wheels turning were also a key theme of the show. Electric drive is today where telematics were not that long ago: ready to turn the corner from developmental stage to application stage. Manufacturers are rolling out products, and more are on the way. Suppliers and original equipment manufacturers alike are all-in on electric. As engineers come up with more ways to transfer that power to the ground, the more options will open up for fleets looking to cut fuel usage and emissions.

It’s also clear that there is no one-stop solution. There’s more than one way for a motor carrier to electrify, and those that build equipment for the industry are interested in hearing what their customers need to entice them. The viability of electric power is real — now it’s just a matter of choosing the best applications.

The same is true for in-cab connectivity. Like smartphones, screen-based applications that are available at the driver’s fingertips hold the potential to revolutionize how those on the road and those behind the scenes communicate. It’s already happening, and advancements in design and capability promise to make it better. This progress was on display all over IAA this week, and in the days and months to come, we predict on the roads as well.