2015 brings a surge of headline-grabbing technology advancements from truck manufacturers

Dec. 4, 2015
AUTONOMOUS trucks and a wide range of telematics advancements topped the technology developments for heavy-duty commercial vehicles in 2015. Manufacturers also launched a variety of powertrain enhancements and upgrades. Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) and Peterbilt showed off the impressive strides they have made in the arena of autonomously driven Class 8 tractors. Press events gave a clear indication of just how far the technology has come.

AUTONOMOUS trucks and a wide range of telematics advancements topped the technology developments for heavy-duty commercial vehicles in 2015. Manufacturers also launched a variety of powertrain enhancements and upgrades.

Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) and Peterbilt showed off the impressive strides they have made in the arena of autonomously driven Class 8 tractors. Press events gave a clear indication of just how far the technology has come.

When the Freightliner unit of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) began planning the official announcement that the Freightliner Inspiration tractor had qualified for the first autonomous truck license in the United States, company officials decided to go big. They wanted to make sure it was a truly momentous event, and they succeeded.

Hundreds of media representatives from 22 countries were brought covered DTNA’s May event in Las Vegas, Nevada, during which the Freightliner Inspiration tractor with Daimler’s Highway Pilot control system. Daimler officials call the self-driving heavy-duty truck the future of the trucking industry, but they acknowledge that it will be years before an autonomous truck hits the highway for anything more than tests and demonstrations. Most noteworthy is the fact that this is the first Class 8 autonomous truck to be licensed to operate on Nevada highways.

“This is an example of Freightliner shaping transportation with new technology, efficiency, and safety,” said Martin Daum, DTNA president and chief executive officer. “Freightliner Trucks has infinite inspiration when it comes to improving Real Cost of Ownership for our customers. The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is the latest example of how we meet the challenges faced by our customers through innovation.”

Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the board of management of Daimler AG Daimler Trucks and Buses, added: “The autonomous vehicle technology we are showcasing in the Freightliner Inspiration Truck will help reduce accidents, improve fuel consumption, cut highway congestion, and safeguard the environment. Daimler Trucks North America is committed to developing the latest technology to meet our customers’ needs and delivering the best commercial trucks in the world. We are proud to get this vehicle on the road today. We selected Nevada for the Freightliner Inspiration because it is one of only four states that require special licensing. Our goal was to not only showcase what was technologically possible, but to do it in a regulated environment with safety standards and other oversight requirements.”

The State of Nevada was represented by Governor Brian Sandoval, who presented the state’s first license plate for an autonomous vehicle. “Nevada is proud to be making transportation history by hosting the first US public highway drive for a licensed autonomous commercial truck. The application of this innovative technology to one of America’s most important industries will have a lasting impact on our state and help shape the New Nevada economy. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has been closely monitoring the advancements being made in autonomous vehicle development and reviewed DTNA’s safety, testing, and training plans before granting permission for this demonstration of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck.”

The State of Nevada certified two Freightliner Inspiration Trucks for regular operations on public roads. The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is based on the series-produced US Freightliner Cascadia model, but with the addition of the Highway Pilot technology. The latter comprises the front bumper-mounted radar and a stereo camera plus tried and tested assistance systems such as Adaptive Cruise Control, as seen in the standard Freightliner Cascadia models and the Mercedes-Benz Actros. For licensing on public roads in Nevada, the technology was further developed and the precise interaction of components extensively tested. As part of the truck´s so-called Marathon Run, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck covered over 10,000 miles (over 16,000 kilometers) on a test circuit in Papenburg, Germany.

During a media event at Texas Motor Speedway north of Fort worth, Peterbilt provided test rides in two tractors with Peterbilt’s Advanced Driver Assist system, which qualifies them as Level 3 autonomous vehicles under the National Transportation Safety Administration’s program.

​Peterbilt combined a variety of technologies in its Advanced Driver Assist system. Components include radar-based adaptive cruise control that automatically accelerates and decelerates to maintain safe following distances and lane-departure type cameras to keep the truck on track on the highway.

The system also has high-precision GPS mapping capability to enable the truck to maintain a pre-programmed route. That made it possible for the two demonstration test trucks to negotiate the inside road track at the Texas Motor Speedway. Peterbilt executives claim the GPS system is accurate within five centimeters.

Telematics were another key focus area for truck builders. Clearly, the truck builders are achieving impressive results with their telematics improvements, and tank truck carriers are among the beneficiaries of those efforts.

International Truck announced a number of advancements to its OnCommand Connection open architecture remote diagnostics system. The system works with a customer’s existing telematics provider, pulling diagnostic-related data to create easy-to-understand vehicle health reports. Visibility into the operational health of the vehicle empowers customers to understand the severity of vehicle issues and determine the appropriate actions—ultimately leading to increased uptime.

The company also launched a dedicated website to its OnCommand Connection remote diagnostics system. The robust site,, serves as a destination for education on the system, including useful information on telematics partners, training, and portal access. Customers can also enroll in OnCommand Connection directly through the website.

Highlights of benefits delivered by OnCommand Connection since the system’s introduction just over a year ago include the following:

•  Industry’s first open architecture remote diagnostics system, aggregating data from participating telematics providers, including competitive makes

•  Robust fault code monitoring of more than 4,000 codes and counting

•  Monitors and aggregates faults from integrated component suppliers like Cummins and welcomes newly added partner Eaton, with several others in the pipeline

•  Bolstering integration with repair information partners such as Mitchell One and Noregon

•  Base telematics hardware and data bundle with option to upgrade, regardless of provider

International Trucks and DTNA announced enhanced capabilities to deliver over-the-air upgrades to their remote diagnostics systems.

For International Trucks, over-the-air reprogramming of engine control modules will be available for N9, N10, and N13 proprietary engines starting with 2017-model-year trucks. OTA reprogramming of truck ECMs will enable the driver or fleet manager to utilize a mobile interface to initiate reprogramming. The system will enable the quick, efficient, and secure ability to add engine and component calibration updates, body control module updates, and future cellular capabilities.

For DTNA, a new portal will provide Detroit Connect users additional information about overall fleet health, as well as enable them to take a deeper dive into specific fault events communicated via Virtual Technician. In addition to the portal, DTNA is developing a new telematics platform that will be available on select truck models in 2017. This new platform—which will utilize cellular service connectivity—will mark the introduction of over-the-air capabilities, including remote vehicle parameter settings, remote downloading of DDEC reports, and remote flashing of firmware for electronic controllers.

At Peterbilt, the new SmartLINQ remote diagnostics system that is now available on all new trucks spec’d with the PACCAR MX-13 engine. SmartLINQ will be expanded to other truck systems and platforms in the months ahead.

When a diagnostic code is generated by the engine or after treatment system, it is analyzed and automatically communicated to the customer (as well as any Peterbilt dealerships the customer may assign to receive the notifications as well).

Initially the system is monitoring approximately 800 diagnostic codes. E-mail notifications include:

•  Vehicle information

•  Diagnostic code and description

•  Additional information such as if an engine derate is required

•  Possible causes, including which items may be corrected by the operator

•  Locations of the three nearest Peterbilt dealerships

•  Recommended action

All vehicles equipped with SmartLINQ can also monitored in real time through a web-based portal customized for the customer. The at-a-glance interface includes a map of North America with each unit represented by an icon color coded to vehicle health: green for no events; yellow for diagnostic codes that need attention soon; and red for diagnostic code events that require immediate action. There are also icons to indicate related information, such as Peterbilt dealer locations.

Advancing its commitment to maximizing customer uptime, Volvo Trucks officials announced earlier this year that Volvo’s Remote Diagnostics service will be expanded to monitor critical fault codes on the Volvo I-Shift automated manual transmission.

“Vehicle uptime is arguably the highest priority for our customers because trucks benefit their owners only if they are moving,” said Göran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North America. “While technology such as Remote Diagnostics is a key element of our uptime services, we believe that a strong dealer network and knowledgeable, diligent Volvo aftermarket support personnel are critical as well.”

Remote Diagnostics, which Volvo launched in 2012 and made standard on all Volvo-powered vehicles in 2013, is a proactive diagnostic and repair planning system that monitors critical fault codes, identifies the necessary parts and supplies straightforward repair instructions to technicians, even before the truck arrives for service.

Given the success of Remote Diagnostics in proactively monitoring fault codes on Volvo engines and after treatment systems, the service has been expanded to monitor internal I-Shift transmission components on model year 2016 trucks. Remote Diagnostics will monitor both the standard I-Shift transmission and the I-Shift for severe-duty applications.

Along with upgrading its technology, Volvo is investing in services related to uptime. The company last year opened its Uptime Center, a 123,000 square-foot facility in Greensboro. The Uptime Center consolidates under one roof the people and systems needed to monitor and respond to vehicle issues in real time.

Volvo Action Service agents make up the front lines of the Uptime Center, working directly with customers, dealers and Volvo representatives to resolve problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. All interaction among customers, dealers and Volvo is documented in ASIST, Volvo’s web-based service management platform, to ensure that everyone knows exactly where a case stands at any moment.

Volvo also unveiled its Adaptive Loading system that is drawing plenty of attention from tank truck fleets and others that are looking for ways to improve fuel economy on empty backhauls. Volvo’s Adaptive Loading technology features a 6x2 liftable forward tractor axle that automatically adjusts to load weight changes and offers 4x2 operation under certain conditions. Like other 6x2 setups, Adaptive Loading improves fuel efficiency compared with traditional 6x4 configurations, which have two drive axles.

The non-drive axle, which is in the forward position of the tandem axles, helps distribute load weight without the internal gearing of a drive axle, lowering weight and reducing internal friction. The 6x2 arrangement eliminates 300 pounds from the tractor tare weight.

The liftable forward axle and Volvo’s Electronically Controlled Suspension (ECS) offer additional fuel efficiency benefits. In Adaptive Loading, ECS—based on pre-programmed weight thresholds—automatically lifts the axle in empty or light-loads situations to create a 4x2 configuration with less tire rolling resistance.

The new system is available on Volvo VNL and VNM models rated for gross combination weights up to 90,000 pounds. It is available on the XE Economy, XE Adaptive Gearing, and Eco-Torque powertrain packages. Fuel savings of 3% to 5% are possible, according to Volvo officials.

Kenworth Predictive Cruise Control is now in production for new T680s and T880s specified with the PACCAR MX-13 engine paired with Eaton UltraShift and Eaton Fuller Advantage automated and manual transmissions. The system combines cruise control with GPS to help deliver optimal fuel economy.

In essence, Predictive Cruise anticipates the terrain ahead. When approaching a hill, the system analyzes the terrain via on-board maps and GPS to determine the optimal vehicle speed. This information is used in five different steps to maximize the utilization of the truck’s own kinetic energy.

Kenworth and Peterbilt also announced the rollout of the new 10.8-liter PACCAR MX-11 engine. Production begins in January 2016.

The PACCAR MX-11 engine has an output of up to 430 horsepower and 1,550 lb-ft of torque. It is ideal for a wide range of applications, including regional haul, tanker, bulk haul, construction, and refuse.

PACCAR launched the MX-11 engine in Europe in 2013 and has manufactured and installed over 10,000 of the engines in vehicles built by its DAF Trucks division. PACCAR has over 50 years of engine development and manufacturing expertise.

The PACCAR MX-11 engine has six inline cylinders and a double overhead camshaft design. PACCAR MX engines are the only commercial diesel engines to use Compacted Graphite Iron (CGI) in both the engine block and cylinder head. CGI is approximately 20 percent lighter and 75% stronger than traditional gray iron. The PACCAR MX-11 engine is designed to achieve an industry-leading B10 life of one million miles. It also utilizes a common rail fuel system with injection pressures of 2,500 bar to optimize combustion for low fuel consumption and noise levels.  ♦