The Internet of Trucks

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Life for workshop personnel is going to change dramatically as all new trucks go online, connected directly to the internet all of the time. Daimler Trucks have announced the company’s intention of making all of its trucks internet ready when sold into the market.


At the upcoming IAA (International Commercial Vehicle Show) later this year, Daimler will be demonstrating its claimed technological leadership in the field of connectivity and begin systematically consolidating its connected trucks systems.


“For high performance logistics real time data is essential and our trucks supply this data,” said Dr Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the Daimler Board of Management. “Therefore we are investing around half a billion euros($742 million) by 2020 to connect our trucks with their environment and develop specific new applications. This will boost our customers’ performance and help them to operate their businesses safer and more environmentally friendly.


“FleetBoard and Detroit Connect will considerably help to leverage previously unlocked potential in road transport, both in the highly developed triad markets and in the emerging economies of Africa, Asia and Latin America.”


Starting at the IAA, Daimler said it will continuously add new service packages to its already extensive telematics services, and also make its platforms accessible to third parties. The company has also set up the structural framework for the digital transformation of the truck business, and established corresponding structures in all business units.


“We are connecting the truck with the internet, making it the mobile data centre of the logistics network,” said Bernhard. “It connects all those involved in goods: drivers, schedulers, fleet operators, workshops, manufacturers and insurance companies or authorities. They receive information in real time which was previously unavailable. Information about the condition of the prime mover and semitrailer, traffic and weather conditions, the parking availability at motorway service stations, rest areas and much more.


“Our trucks will fully connect with their environment, becoming part of the internet and continuously sending and receiving information. All those involved in the logistical process can use these real-time data for their needs.”


In the future, updates over the air or automated transfer of inbound time for trucks heading to their service point, will mean maintenance time can be reduced significantly.


“Today, Daimler lays the foundation for the third industrial revolution. In the era of the internet of things, all tools and machinery will be equipped with sensors which constantly provide a real time information flow,” said Jeremy Rifkin, Author, Sociologist and Futurologist. “This will fundamentally change the way we do business. The internet of things is offering completely new opportunities.”


Daimler Trucks generate information with its, approximately, 400 sensors per vehicle and is fully connected with software including 100 millions of lines of code, more than a passenger jet.


With new freight clearing houses based on data from connected trucks, logistics businesses will in future be able to utilise their vehicle capacity much better, and thereby reduce empty running. Downtime for trucks can be reduced if the truck itself reports a fault at an early stage, and the operator can schedule a service during the already planned downtime between loads.


FleetBoard has been the telematics platform for Mercedes-Benz since 2000, it collects a wealth of status and position data from the vehicle and sends it to headquarters via th mobile phone system. At present there are around 180,000 vehicles with FleetBoard systems in operation with around 6000 customers. Other vehicle brands can also be retrofitted with the FleetBoard hardware at any time, and integrated into the logistics management system.


In April Mercedes-Benz is establishing a new unit, Digital Solutions & Services headed by Dr. Daniela Gerd Tom Markotten, who has many years of experience in the field of IT supported vehicle telematics. This unit, which will also have FleetBoard as a part of its portfolio and will direct all activities concerning digital applications for Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles, in cooperation with the other divisions of the company.


The aim is also to establish the organisational conditions for the development of digital innovations in this dynamic field. While it takes around nine years to develop a new truck, only a few months are available to program software for the user-oriented use of real-time data from a truck.


185,000 vehicles are already connected with Detroit Connect in North America, where Daimler has a strategic partnership with Zonar Systems. In 2015, Daimler acquired a minority holding in Zonar. In 2011 Daimler and Zonar launched the remote diagnosis system Virtual Technician and Detroit Connect in the market.


Detroit Connect was the first telematics solution in the USA and in Canada able to determine the cause behind fault messages on the road. When a warning message lights up, the Virtual Technician system, as a component of Detroit Connect, sends a real-time report on the technical condition of the vehicle to the Detroit Customer Support Centre. Here the data is analysed and the vehicle operator receives an action recommendation by email within a few minutes, for example, telling the driver to make for a workshop at once or, alternatively, to a service appointment after their freight task is complete.