Truck OEMs Say Connectivity Will Drive Future Enhancements

Khurana, Swazo, Natarajan and Mulshine
DTNA’s Khurana (from left), Kenworth’s Swazo, Ashok Leyland’s Natarajan and Navistar’s Mulshine discuss the advance of connected truck technology at Trimble’s In.sight User Conference and Expo. (Seth Clevenger/Transport Topics)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

HOUSTON — The growth of connected-truck technology is not only reducing vehicle downtime, but also paving the way for future services and enhancing product development, according to representatives from four truck manufacturers.

Truck makers are building on their remote diagnostics platforms by expanding over-the-air software updates and enabling third-party software integrations, manufacturers said during a Sept. 16 panel discussion at Trimble’s In.Sight User Conference and Expo.

“Connectivity is the gateway to the technologies of the future,” said Jamin Swazo, director of marketing communications at Kenworth Truck Co.

The advance of remote diagnostics already has boosted vehicle uptime by sending fleets information on critical fault codes and nearby dealer location, he said.

Looking ahead, the implementation and growth of over-the-air updates will mark the next step forward for connected trucks. Those capabilities will expand beyond the engine to other components, such as the transmission, Swazo said.

Paccar Inc., the parent of Kenworth and Peterbilt Motors Co., introduced remote diagnostics for its Paccar engines in 2015, expanded that service to Cummins engines in 2017 and now offers it across its heavy- and medium-duty product lines.

Connected-vehicle technology also is driving improvements in truck design.

Daimler Trucks North America is harnessing the data collected by its telematics system to better understand failures and incorporate that knowledge into product development, said Sanjiv Khurana, DTNA’s general manager for digital vehicle solutions at Daimler Trucks North America.

“We clearly are able to get new insights around how our trucks are operating,” he said. “It really helps us to make our products better and anticipate those failures.”

Every new Freightliner Cascadia model comes standard with a five-year service subscription to Detroit Connect, including the company’s Virtual Technician remote diagnostics platform and remote updates.

As part of its product development path, DTNA is working to more fully utilize the factory-installed telematics hardware in its trucks by enabling it to run software from outside technology vendors while eliminating third-party hardware and data plans, Khurana said.

Connected-vehicle data also will support DTNA’s testing and development of automated driving technologies, he added. Early next year, the truck maker will introduce SAE Level 2 automated driving with active steering in its new Cascadia model. DTNA also is testing Level 4, or highly automated trucks, with the goal of introducing the technology within 10 years.

Now that trucks are collecting and transmitting a wealth of data, the focus moving forward will be to make that information more accessible and improve customer workflows, said Brian Mulshine, director of customer aftersales experience at Navistar.

“I think about us as being a traffic cop or herding cats,” he said.

As trucks capture thousands of fault codes, manufacturers will need to reduce the noise and make that data cleaner.

“We need to make it simple, and make it actionable,” Mulshine said.

Navistar’s connected-truck platform, OnCommand Connection, offers an open architecture enabled by a variety of third-party telematics vendors.

Connectivity is a major trend in truck markets across the globe.

WANT MORE NEWS? Listen to today's Daily Briefing

Venkatesh Natarajan, chief digital officer and senior vice president at India-based truck and bus manufacturer Ashok Leyland, said all of the company’s vehicles are “smart vehicles,” and those capabilities will expand in the future.

“Today we are building computers on top of vehicles,” he said. “Moving forward we will be building vehicles on top of computers.”