Further Down the Technology Pipeline

For the past few weeks we’ve been talking about how technology is coming at us faster and faster. Sometimes it feels like we’ll never catch up. But I have to remind myself that for some of these technologies, we are getting information much earlier in the development cycle. And while we need to be aware of the latest bells and whistles, many are not as pressing decisions as some of the systems we’ve talked about previously, like telematics, collision avoidance and lane departure.

Platooning, autonomous trucks and augmented reality are a few other technologies that we need to put on our radar. They are coming — you’d be naïve to think otherwise — but they will not be here “tomorrow.”

While autonomous trucks seems to be getting all the hype these days, Sandeep Kar, global vice president of Frost & Sullivan’s automotive & transportation research practice said during FTR’s recent virtual conference that by 2025, there will only be 8,000 autonomous Level 3 and higher trucks. And he believes it is not regulatory or technology problems that will keep it from happening, but sees it as a psychological or societal problem.  (I’m sure I’m not the only one who is adjusting to the idea that cars or trucks can drive themselves...).

So perhaps closer on the horizon is platooning, a descriptor for two trucks travelling one behind the other very closely. Platooning relies on a wireless electronic communication system that informs the second truck when the truck in the lead has braked.  The second truck then brakes automatically, without the driver ever touching the brake pedal. It is estimated that the rear truck in a two-truck platoon will see a 10% fuel economy gain and that even the front truck will benefit by 4.5%.

In his presentation at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW), Derek Kaufman, managing partner at Schwartz Advisors and president of C3 Network, talked about augmented reality, a technology that provides “see through” views. He “sees” two benefits to this technology: (1) it allows drivers to “see through” cab exteriors for increased safety and (2), it helps guide technicians through repair procedures.

Hard to know for sure when these “out there” technologies will be commercially available at prices that make sense. But for now, it makes sense to know a little something about them so you’ll be prepared to make smart decisions when the time is right.

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