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Truckmaker Outlines Vision of Future Truck Connectivity, Platoon System

Imagine a supply chain with a instantaneous digital information exchange between driver, carrier and shipper – a Formula 1car-like service and information sharing environment where all relevant data about the vehicle, routing, weather etc. is analyzed in real-time and reactions are determined immediately.

In a trucking environment, this could include parts and technicians on-hand to make repairs as the truck arrives, automatic rest stop reservations and routing when the vehicle senses the driver is fatigued, and exchange of information between vehicles and the physical infrastructure.

That was the vision unveiled at a global press event in Germany by Daimler Trucks, which announced its ambitions to leverage new technologies to improve truck connectivity and drive efficiencies throughout the logistics supply chain. As an example, reports CCJ magazine, Daimler debuted its Highway Pilot Connect, the next step in its quest for autonomous truck operation.

“There is a revolution going on, and the truck is in its center,” said Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the Board of Management for Daimler AG, Daimler Trucks & Buses. “We have a vision of the future where the entire transportation process is completely seamless. Where the flow of goods on the road is mirrored by a flow of information from the internet in real time.”

“On average, a truck spends only one-third of its time driving,” said Bernhard. “The rest is spent waiting to get loaded or unloaded, at a service facility, stuck in traffic or at a rest area. Soon these can be problems of the past with connectivity. The connected truck can provide the real-time information that is now lacking.”

Specifically, the Highway Pilot Connect builds on Daimler’s Highway Pilot autonomous truck platform it introduced last year but adds Wi-Fi communication for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, allowing all three vehicles to automatically adapt to changing traffic and road conditions.

Highway Pilot Connect relies on a number of sensors found in Daimler’s Highway Pilot truck, including long-distance and short-range radars on the front grille capable of measuring vehicle speed to within 0.1 kilometer per hour and distance accuracy of 20 centimeters, as well as a windshield-mounted stereo camera with a 100-meter range that detects lane markings, overpass clearances and traffic signs.

It adds a video camera mounted above the windshield that relays real-time traffic video from the lead truck to the two trailing vehicles to provide drivers with a clear view of traffic conditions ahead of the platoon. A separate control unit calculates driving strategy and provides necessary steering for all three vehicles using a hydraulic/electro-mechanical steering support.

An additional communication module exchanges information among the three trucks including vehicle type, size and weight (used to help determine the optimum order the trucks should be sequenced), as well as steering maneuvers, braking force requirements and other necessary data.

The frequency of data exchange among vehicles – which has a total range of 200 meters – depends on the speed of the platoon. In typical road and traffic conditions, the system transmits one message per second, but can send 10 messages per second when necessary.

In the cockpit, the driver can see the available connected trucks in the display and activate Highway Pilot Connect with a switch on the steering wheel. If a vehicle leaves the platoon by deactivating Highway Pilot Connect, the remaining vehicles in the platoon will close the gap.

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