The Future of the Black Box

the future of the black box

Truck development is at a tipping point, in electronics terms, the future of the black box will see integration of functionality into a single system. Diesel News talks to one of the suppliers of these systems, Directed Technologies.

As the pace of development of electronics continues to increase many truck cabins are becoming crowded with little black boxes. In the next stage of development of telematics and safety electronics the proliferation of black boxes is set to decrease as all of the functions become part of a single platform.

Telematics and electronics in trucks have come a long way in the last 20 years. Over that time, the electronic system throughout the entire trucks has become digital. Trucks now use a CANbus throughout the vehicle to power and control everything from tail lights, to engine mapping to refrigerated trailer temperature. Add to this, the fact that most of this data is also being streamed back to base at a steady rate so operators and customers can see what the truck is doing and how it is performing.

We don’t actually have a name for the units which are being placed in new trucks today. Originally, it was the radio and then it was the entertainment system with CD player and then it became a navigation system as well. At this point it was called an AVN, audio-visual navigation. Now it is becoming so much more than what was essentially a double DIN-sized black box in the middle of the dashboard. On the new Hino trucks the unit is being called the multimedia hub. This may stick, it may not.


the future of the black box


The point at which it was clear that telematics were going to become a standard fitment in every truck, was when the Japanese truck manufacturers announced, one after the other, that every new truck would have some form of telematics hub included. Although the systems were quite rudimentary, in modern terms, the basic concept created a pathway to integrated electronics.

Telematics has been around for a long time and has had the power to provide a lot of data to the operator and help the driver in their daily tasks. However, the first systems to come online were expensive European based integrated options, which remained inflexible in their parameters and didn’t offer much bang for your buck in the Australian context.

Coming in later, with a more targeted and task specific set of products, were an array of technology providers able to jump on the electronics revolution and offer specific telematics tools, like satellite tracking, reversing cameras, dashcams, navigation units, mass monitoring etc. Add to this the Intelligent Access Program systems and it became possible to fill the truck’s dashboard with black boxes and wires.

The trucking industry does not require the kind of electronics which is being built into modern cars. Anything that is in truck needs to have more of a fleet focus as it is a business tool. As a result, the trucking industry is looking for something else and, especially if they have a wide variety of brands in the fleet, they’re not likely to buy into a brand’s system which blocks others out. What they are looking for is for the truck manufacturers to offer a more open system which will interact with the other trucks in the fleet, as well as with their business systems and back office.


the future of the black box