'Moving forward, we will be building vehicles on top of computers.'

(Image: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

(Image: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

Guest post by FreightWaves’ Linda Baker

Truck manufacturers are pushing full steam ahead into connected vehicle platforms, using telematics and data integration to drive value for customers while providing countless other benefits for partners, the community and the OEMs themselves.

Paccar started its digital transformation journey in 2015 with a remote diagnostics platform, said Jamin Swazo, director of marketing, Kenworth Trucks. The company has since expanded from a Paccar engine-only platform to a Cummins engine platform and more recently a connected system for its medium-duty trucks.

The engine health insights Kenworth gleans from telematics data allows the manufacturer “to [provide] better uptime to our customers,” said Swazo, one of several speakers who participated in a forum during the in.sight user conference that is taking place in Houston this week. “And a customer’s uptime translates into good business for us.”

For its part, Kenworth gets to see how its trucks and integrated Paccar powertrain are performing, Swazo said. “It’s the foundation of everything we’re moving toward.”

Building systems on top of systems

Daimler Trucks North America has 125,000 connected Cascadia trucks on the road, said Sanjiv Khurana, DTNA’s general manager of digital vehicle solutions. The smart trucks generate an enormous amount of data for the company, providing important insights into how its trucks are operating.

That data also informs Daimler’s deep dive into autonomous big rigs. For example, the Cascadia telematics system indicates where hard braking events hit trucks participating in DTNA’s Level Two and Level Four self-driving pilots.

Customers can use the vehicle’s built-in cameras to build out additional safety solutions for drivers, Khurana added. Without the camera, those solutions may have been too costly for many fleets. 

“If you can leverage all of the hardware that is already in the truck,” he said, “that’s thousands of dollars you don’t have to pay.”

Using telematics to solve community challenges

Venkatesh Natarajan, chief digital officer for Indian truck and bus manufacturer Ashok Leyland, offered an expansive view of digital transformation. 

He described a “Five C” framework of beneficiaries: the company, the channel partners (e.g., dealers), the customer, collaborating partners (insurers, banks) and the community.

Telematics’ needs typically revolve around vehicle performance, safety and fuel efficiency. In India, fleets face another big problem —  fuel theft. Ashok Leyland’s connected truck platform lets customers know “how much fuel has been pilfered and where it happened,” Natarajan said. ”It’s giving them huge benefits.”

He emphasized the importance of sharing telematics data with educational and government institutions. India is building out a network of smart cities, he said, and OEMs that install “the right sensors and capture the right data” play a key role in helping agencies like the national highway authority develop smart traffic systems. 

Predictive parts stocking

Brian Mulshine, director of customer after-sales experience at Navistar, called attention to the way data analytics can wring unexpected business efficiencies, inspiring a change in operations.

Navistar used to stock parts of all kinds at its primary distribution centers, Mulshine said. But after using telematics location data to identify where different trucks are operating, the company now stocks the closest distribution center with parts aimed at those vehicles.

“We saw an incredible jump in fill rates. It’s like 250,000 hours of uptime.” Navistar, said Mulshine, is now using big data to run “predictive parts stocking analytics.”

Infinite possibilities

Asked about the next stage in the evolution of connected truck platforms, Mulshine pointed to workflow.

Customers don’t necessarily want to use the Navistar portal — they want to use their own portal. “So we’re putting more money into API,” said Mulshine. “We’re focusing on taking the data, cleaning it up and making it available for where and how the customer wants it.”

Natarajan echoed that assertion. “With the deluge of information, it becomes very important to provide the customer with the right information: when he wants and what he wants.” 

He foresees a time when OEMs are known as much for data-driven solutions as making trucks. Today, he said, manufacturers are building computers on top of vehicles.

“Moving forward, we will be building vehicles on top of computers.”