The Future of Connected Trucks Are we heading into a future where trucks drive themselves?

Many service and manufacturing sectors have been developing and implementing swaths of technologies that make use of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is when different parts of a mechanism or production/logistics line are connected to each other, communicating in real-time and ensuring the most efficient, secure and highest quality output for a service or product.

One area that IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) has been thriving is with freight trucks that deliver raw materials, as well as finished products across the world and beyond borders. Even though people jump to self-driving trucks whenever AI is mentioned in conjunction with trucks, the implications of connected trucks do not necessarily mean replacing human drivers, but instead greatly optimizing their performance and efficiency, and thus helping companies’ bottom line.

connected trucks
Connected Trucks

Today’s connected trucks include as much as 400 sensors and cameras, allowing for constant data collection and analysis across the world’s many freeways and thoroughfares. To help analyze and make use of all the data collected, special software that are compatible with many if not most freight truck brands has been developed.

This software’s complexity surpasses that of commercial jet liners, given the many variables such as traffic and weather conditions, as well as private cars and public transport that freight trucks share the road with and need to perfectly be in sync to. The trucks’ “brain” is connected to the telecom network, but also via Bluetooth to its sensors as well as a GPS system to pinpoint and track each truck’s location and route.

Optimal Fleet Management

Freight companies and departments only make money when their fleet is in motion. That’s why delays caused by routine or unexpected maintenance can cost a fortune and lead to delays that might disrupt delivery of materials or goods. Connected trucks and their vast array of sensors allow both drivers and dispatchers to access real-time data about each truck, and ensure the ideal window to run maintenance on every vehicle, and potentially predict and resolve problems before it’s too late and they cause a disruption in freight schedules.
Third-party apps are also available on the dedicated stores for each connected truck network, allowing each company to choose the right fleet management option for them and maintain efficient schedules for maintenance and upgrades without extended periods of downtime. An additional layer of convenience is when a vehicle needs to head to the shop, the system automatically schedules appointments with workshops that can fix the problem. This ensures that the workshops aren’t over booked, and routine maintenance and check-ups are planned and spaced out, lessening the possibility of a workshop being overwhelmed because of unexpected problems that connected truck networks can now identify early on.

internet of things connected trucks
Traffic Management

Even though driverless trucks will not completely replace human-operated ones anytime soon, driverless technology can still complement human drivers’ work and ensure a safer, more efficient drive for trucks across the world.

The recommended distance between freight trucks is at least 50 meters, and that’s due to many factors such as a driver’s reaction time after seeing a brake light, which is around 1.4 seconds. AI can react in as little as 0.1 seconds, which means that a convoy of freight trucks can decrease the space between them to as little as 15 meters. So, a convoy of 3 trucks that would normally take up 150 meters of highway can now take just 80 meters, almost half as much as it normally would.

An added advantage to autonomous driving integration into connected trucks is considerable reduction in CO2 emissions, with an average of 7% less fuel consumption for a 40-ton truck. This is partly due to better reaction times and more efficient coordination between a convoy of freight trucks. However, the main advantage of closer trucks is the slipstream effect, which happens when trucks are closer together and the effect of air resistance becomes considerably less for trucks behind the lead vehicle. These savings make a 40-ton freighter even more fuel efficient per ton than the average passenger car.

The Future is Here

Several truck fleets around the world are already incorporating connected trucks into their convoys, with considerable cost-cutting and increased efficiency already materializing. In the foreseeable future, more and more trucks will be connected, ensuring safer road performance and more efficient fleet management schemes. The IoT has many promising applications, and what seemed like science fiction only a few years ago is already a reality on many roads today.

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