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“This industry is well ahead of passenger vehicle in the connected space and telematics,” says Stephan Tarnutzer, Vice President of Electronics at FEV.

Commercial vehicles to become the ultimate ‘sensor’

“This industry is well ahead of passenger vehicle in what it does in the connected space and in telematics. Working in both industries, it’s very interesting to see what customers on the one side and the other side are doing, but also to see how much faster this industry has moved in this space.” This is how Stephan Tarnutzer, Vice President of Electronics at FEV, began a discussion about the state of telematics and connectivity in the commercial vehicle sector. Connected Services is one of the groups Tarnutzer heads at FEV, which focuses on systems integration and the role of telematics going forward. He offered forward-looking insights on several interesting topics—such as the inevitability of truck sharing and “gamified” human-machine interfaces (HMIs) creating better drivers.

Vehicle as a sensor

Tarnutzer believes that telematics is an enabler for the future, it is not the solution.

“The future will be where every [vehicle] is the best sensor in the world—a driving sensor, collecting gobs and gobs of data and communicating with anything and everything around—with people, buildings, other vehicles, with roads, satellites, you name it,” he said. “So much data will be collected, we probably won’t even know what to do with it. Data analytics is a critical piece in the future.”

The challenge is not necessarily how to use this data at the end of the process, he noted, but rather how to effectively gather the data to begin with. “The key is to get the data from legacy systems, private systems, open and closed systems,” Tarnutzer said. “We see the vehicle—heavy-duty trucks, off-road, passenger cars—driving on the network and becoming a part of the Internet of Things (IoT).”

Telematics also enables other upcoming megatrends: vehicle autonomy and “emission-free zones.”

“Autonomy cannot happen without telematics—without connectivity, without talking to other vehicles, without talking to the Cloud and getting all sorts of information, autonomous vehicles, platooning, eHorizon-type applications [developed by Continental] will not be happening.”

In terms of advanced energy management, “we’ll see a future where trucks and passenger vehicles driving into certain areas, mainly in cities, will have different emission requirements than they have when they’re on the open road.” FEV is already working on some programs in Europe, he noted.

Gaming the system

Much of the information that drivers need to operate vehicles safely is the same as it was decades ago. But how that information is relayed to drivers has and will become more sophisticated.

“We see augmented reality, ‘gamified’ ecosystems [coming],” Tarnutzer said. “How gamification helps you drive, can help a fleet owner by driving more fuel efficiently, and also voice ID. These are just some of the technologies we see coming down the road.”

FEV Consulting conducted a study over a year ago that evaluated new concept ideas for Eco-Coaching systems along with their future market potential and functional range. The firm stated that growth rates of up to 60% annually are realistic for innovative assistance systems, and that such systems have the potential to reduce real-world fuel and CO2 consumption by 6-12%.

There are concerns that borrowing too heavily from the gaming industry for vehicle HMI systems could be a dangerous thing in terms of driver distraction. But Tarnutzer does not think so—rather, he believes it can better engage drivers.

The gaming industry already has decades of experience with forecasting user behavior, motivation patterns and manipulation techniques. “How do we do this for drivers in vehicles? With the ultimate goal of becoming safer but also more fuel-efficient drivers,” he said. “Because a big piece of fuel efficiency to meet government mandates is how he or she drives. Yeah, it’s the technology—better, more fuel-efficient engines that we help design, calibrations, software, connectivity—but at the end of the day, it’s still the driver that can drive very aggressively. Gamified Eco-Coaching and the theory behind it is, how do we help entice drivers to drive more fuel efficiently, because they may not care about the fleet owners having to pay more fuel or changing the brake pads again.”

Truck sharing is caring

“Everybody is talking about car sharing—Uber, Maven, a lot of different examples out there. We see truck sharing on the horizon as well, and some programs are already ongoing, at least for proof-of-concepts,” Tarnutzer said.

“The ability for different fleet owners to share trucks to haul freight from point A to point B is there—with the ability of Cloud, connectivity, telematics, and data analytics—and it’s very much possible,” he said. “It may not be the greatest thing for Navistar and other [truck OEMs] when we sell fewer trucks, but these trucks will be much more sophisticated—meaning more expensive—so the benefits to the OEMs are still there but also the benefits to the community are there.”

Wrapping up his discussion, Tarnutzer posed and answered a question: “What do I see for the future of the ecosystem in telematics? I see more and more complexity coming. It’s a tremendous challenge for us as suppliers—and the OEMs as well—to take all those different puzzle pieces from the system specification through the design, to the integration, to the validation, until finally a safe, reliable and secure truck comes out that is ready for fleet owners and drivers to use. And these puzzle pieces come from different industries—for example, the automotive industry and the telecommunications industry or consumer electronics industry—all three of them have a totally different perception of what quality is. Bringing these all together into a vehicle that has to start every day and is not allowed to pull to the side and be rebooted once or twice a month, is extremely challenging.”

Even so, commercial vehicle OEMs and suppliers are up to the challenge, he said.

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