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May 11, 2015 2:30 AM, EDT

OEMs Expand Their Presence in Telematics, Will Work With Tech Vendors, DTNA Says

Seth Clevenger for TT
By Seth Clevenger, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the May 11 print edition of Transport Topics.

PRINCETON, N.J. — Original equipment manufacturers will play a larger role in the telematics market in the years ahead, but their efforts will complement the services already provided by third-party technology suppliers rather than replacing them, an OEM’s telematics director told trucking technology professionals here.

“Our focus as OEMs should be on information about your truck, which only we can provide,” Matthew Pfaffenbach of Daimler Trucks North America said May 5 at the ALK Technology Summit.

Building on the remote diagnostics platforms they’ve introduced in recent years, truck makers will develop more advanced vehicle analysis and could increasingly provide the hardware and platforms that third-party software will run on, he said.

However, Pfaffenbach said he has “no desire” to develop “traditional” telematics services such as driver performance monitoring and reporting.

“What’s been developed in the telematics industry is already well- established, and not only is it well- established, it’s well-integrated with customers’ back-office systems,” he said. “OEMs do not need to replicate anything.”

The role of the OEM, he said, will focus more on “connectivity” and establishing data flows, including an emphasis on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication and autonomous driving.

In the transportation sector, telematics generally refers to the long-distance communication of vehicle information, including location and engine data.

DTNA partnered with telematics company Zonar Systems to develop its Virtual Technician remote diagnostics system, introduced in 2011.

Chris Hines, Zonar’s executive vice president, pointed to the growth of vehicle diagnostics systems in the trucking industry in the years since then, saying that “everyone else has gotten into the game.”

All of the major North American heavy-duty truck makers have introduced their own remote diagnostics systems, which monitor fault codes to help fleets better manage maintenance and repairs.

Pfaffenbach said OEM powertrain integration will have a heavy influence on the telematics market.

Much of the data that could be most useful for fleet customers tends to be proprietary, he said, but that’s not necessarily information that engine and transmission manufacturers want to share with each other.

“This is where I see OEMs playing a much larger role,” Pfaffenbach said. “Once they have both the engine and the transmission working in concert, that data blockage no longer exists.”

In DTNA’s case, the integration of its in-house Detroit brand engines and transmissions has put the truck maker in a position where it is gathering more and more data, he said.

Pfaffenbach said DTNA’s vision for its telematics arm, named Detroit Connect, will focus on safety, fuel efficiency, uptime and performance, and will connect with multiple telematics providers.

Today, remote diagnostics technology enables fleets and dealers to streamline repairs, but the next step could be the ability to predict when particular components will fail and prevent problems before they occur.

That predictive failure analysis also could lead to flexible service intervals and strategies for vehicles in the future, Pfaffenbach said.

“These things are ideas that we definitely have in mind and are working on,” he said.

Pfaffenbach also said truck makers will need to develop integrations with telematics service providers. That collaboration already is beginning to take place.

Omnitracs sees OEM partnerships as an important part of its business moving forward, said Jeff Champa, the company’s senior director of product management.

“We’ve dedicated an entire team to an OEM strategy,” he told Transport Topics. “We see the OEMs are going to play a part in the [telematics] industry, and we’re currently putting projects in place so we can work with them.”

PeopleNet recently established a business unit focused on its partnerships with equipment manufacturers, including new remote diagnostics agreements with Kenworth and Peterbilt announced at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

Meanwhile, Telogis is providing fleet-management services on Volvo Trucks’ Remote Diagnostics system and Mack Trucks’ GuardDog Connect platform. Volvo and Mack executives have said they are exploring other potential telematics integrations as well.

Navistar’s OnCommand Connection platform works in conjunction with a variety of third-party telematics providers.