DTNA's new cloud-based, real-time tool built to evaluate truck performance

Aug. 1, 2017
Read how Detroit Connect provides more vehicle data than ever

Taking the next step in telematics, Daimler Trucks North America will soon provide more vehicle data than ever before, along with a new service to “pre-analyze” and stream fleet-wide results measuring safety, uptime, fuel economy and performance—a suite of services designed to validate DTNA’s own truck performance claims and ease the “data overload” for customers, according a trucking press event in Yountville CA.

The Detroit Connect platform has also been designed to serve as a hub for the wide range of telematics services now available for commercial vehicle operations—trailer tracking, reefer monitoring, etc—cutting telecom costs while offering third parties the opportunity to develop additional applications.

“There are two common mantras with what we’re showing today,” said Matt Pfaffenbach, director, connectivity, for DTNA. “When I see different tools or applications in the marketplace, typically I see things which are lacking in how they integrate with a customer’s operation. We have made a huge effort from day one to have our customers involved in the development of Detroit Connect to ensure the ability to deliver an exceptional user experience. Second, we want to be the customer’s trusted source of data—whether it’s data for one of their customers, or one of their service providers.”

Simply, modern vehicles generate a lot of data, but current telematics systems offer only “event-based, low-resolution data—a snapshot, some historical context that may not paint the entire picture,” explained Jason Krejewski, manager, connectivity insight team.

And while the industry has developed the capacity to transmit engine performance information from the road, that data typically has to be downloaded and processed locally—whether through proprietary or third-party analytics packages—to make sense of it.

But this fall Detroit Connect Analytics will provide the next step in evolution of truck telematics: “streaming data, cloud-based data aggregation, high-speed distributed computations, on-demand cloud-based access and web portal reports and analysis.”

“What was does that really boil down to? There’s a lot of talk in the world about data. But we’re bringing data off the truck and turning into something useful,” Krejweski said. “Truck performance data obviously has tremendous value for our customers. Does the technology I bought in that New Cascadia really do what I was told it was going to? Having smarter vehicles requires you to have smarter people and smarter data—more data coming into your operations backend so you can understand how that integrated powertrain performs, how that Detroit Assurance package works. These systems are very, very smart—and this is the type of data customers need to have.”

While the proprietary Detroit Connect hardware allows access to more vehicle data than any other platform currently on the market, the real innovation is the “sifting” and “analysis” that will go on behind the scenes, as Detroit Connect Analytics uses the latest computational tools and its own team of experts to make sense of the wealth of information coming in from every connected truck. DTNA is currently evaluating machine learning systems such as IBM’s Watson to apply artificial intelligence tools to the number crunching, Krejweski noted. Such technology eventually will provide, for example, not only fleet-specific analysis of performance trends, but benchmarking drawn from the larger dataset of users.

As for the added functionality of the “open architecture” Detroit Connect system—with the hardware contained in the cab’s “e-Vault”—an immediate benefit will go to customers who currently must subscribe to multiple data plans for various telematics platforms, Krejweski explained.

“If you picture today’s world, you have four or five different SIM-card devices on a truck, for different purposes: trailer tracking, temperature control, tire pressure, video cameras, safety systems. Each of those requires connectivity hardware. Now if you open up the Detroit Connect platform, you give all of those people one, maybe two focal points to transmit that data,” Krejweski said. “All of those different applications that customers need from different pieces of their vehicle get moved through a central gateway to the cloud and disseminated to anybody in their supply chain who can use it—logistics providers, end customers, brokers along the way. One point, with all the data, all the applications, is ideal for everybody.”

And that’s just what Dan Deppeler, vice-president of maintenance for Paper Transport, was looking for. The Green Bay-based carrier’s largest customer’s largest customer wants real-time load tracking and predictive ETA, and because the 730-truck fleet’s mix is already 70% Freightliner, including 11 pre-production New Cascadias, Deppeler signed up for the Detroit Connect Analytics pilot program.

“If you like data and you like trucks, this is really cool stuff,” Deppeler said.

The company specs a “very fuel efficient truck” and, as trucks become “more commoditized,” having access to good data is critical in evaluating performance. He’s also looking for “a better in-cab experience” for Paper Transport’s drivers—and that has meant looking to replace the fleet’s current telematics provider.

He emphasized the importance of recognizing the value of a driver’s time—and so keeping the truck moving is critical. Consequently, he expects a telematics platform to support truck productivity, to deliver “downtime saves.”

In the most recent week, his trucks generated nearly 3,000 fault codes that resulted in about 200 repair orders—but none cost a driver his miles. Indeed, the ability to prioritize those fault codes—through the quality of the information and the recommended actions—is superior to other systems in the marketplace and has provided the most obvious early benefit, Deppeler explained.

“These tools have provided a lot of value. We can get in front of a lot of these issues, and sometimes see them before the drivers do,” he said, citing as an example a truck that needed a re-gen because, it turned out, sand was clogging air filter—a situation the driver was not aware of.

“We don’t want drivers to worry about maintenance,” Deppeler added. “We want them to be out there operating the truck.”

He also pointed to the “coachable opportunities” the detailed telematics provide—specifically regarding speed and braking—both in terms of fuel economy and safety.

“My history has been primarily on fuel economy side, and we’ve only gotten recent access to the safety data,” Deppeler said, “but that’s already the piece that I’m really excited about.”

As demonstrated by Krejweski, the Detroit Connect portal provides users information about overall fleet health, and enables them to take a deeper dive into specific fault events communicated by Virtual Technician. Just a few clicks on the portal provide a view of fleet vehicles’ fault event history, revealing trends that may lead to a more severe event.

The portal also organizes vehicle data into insightful metrics that allow customers to quickly identify trends across their fleets. Detroit Diesel Engine Control (DDEC) reports can also be viewed and archived via the portal, providing information that can be used to further analyze the vehicle’s performance.

Along with desktop web access, the Detroit Connect mobile app will be available later this year, noted Lauren Atinasi, DTNA product strategy manager, connectivity. Users will be able to determine how they receive information--via text, push notifications and/or email.

“Our industry is not tied to desks. We have to integrate drivers. What we’re really doing is turning that truck into an active member of the team,” Atinasi said. “All of this is really a way to allow the customer to focus on what they do best—and that’s running their business. It allows them to focus on the exceptions they need to focus on, to keep their operations running smoothly.”

All Freightliner Trucks and Western Star customers with an active Detroit Connect suite of connected vehicle services subscription now have access to the Detroit Connect portal and all new and future Detroit Connect services. Fleets with the new Freightliner Cascadia also will soon be able to utilize Detroit Connect Remote Updates over-the-air update capabilities.  Customers can sign up for the portal by going to:

Fleets with the new Freightliner Cascadia equipped with a Detroit engine will be able to remotely access Detroit Diesel Engine Control (DDEC) performance reports over-the-air via the Detroit Connect portal starting late summer 2017.

DDEC reports use diagnostics to analyze driver and vehicle performance. They provide key data such as fuel efficiency information, time spent in top gear, time spent in cruise control and much more. The reports help fleet managers better understand vehicle performance, and allow for insights that will help them improve vehicle fuel efficiency.

“By making DDEC reports available through the Detroit Connect portal, we are eliminating the need for fleets to bring a vehicle into the shop and extract the reports,” said Lauren Atinasi, product strategy manager, connectivity, Daimler Trucks North America. “The remote performance reports will benefit uptime as well as overall vehicle insights.”

In late 2017, additional features of Detroit Connect Remote Updates, such as fleet-initiated remote engine parameter programming and Detroit-initiated firmware updates, will be rolled out to new Cascadia customers. All Remote Updates are enabled by the new Detroit Connect platform, which is available exclusively for the new Cascadia.

About the Author

Kevin Jones