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TuSimple Photo: Neil Abt/Fleet Owner
TuSimple is running up to five trips a day for customers in Arizona.

ACE is the place for trucks in the future

Everyone is talking about Automation, Connectivity, and Electrification. Is that the ACE trucking needs?

A little over a year ago, I presented a “Vision for a Roadmap to Autonomy” at the local chapter of SAE, held in Portland at the Daimler Trucks North America Headquarters. You can see a video of the presentation below or you can view the presentation slides here. For that presentation, I coined the term ACE for Autonomous, Connected and Electric.

The beginning of January was the CES show, formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show. It has grown to include anything electronic, not just for consumers, so they want to generalize it to just CES. Without that rebranding, it would be unlikely for the trucking industry to be interested in such a show. We already have so many. This month alone I’ve been scheduled to attend the Work Truck Show, the Truckload Carriers Association annual meeting and the Technology and Maintenance Council annual meeting. The first quarter of every year is filled with truck shows beyond these three.

Exhibitors or stories about trucking at CES included PACCAR, TuSimple, Nikola, Navistar. Surprising to me, Tesla, Thor, and several others were not discussed this year. Since CES I’ve seen reports of Baidu having a roadmap for an open-source platform for autonomous vehicle development. Mobileye and Valueo announced an agreement for technology-neutral, industrywide, autonomous vehicle safety standard using “logically provable rules and defined processes” based on human concepts of safe driving. The National Transportation Safety Board put common terminology on its 10 Most Wanted List for 2019.

A recurring theme now, at all these events, is a discussion of Automation, Connectivity, and Electrification. It’s as if all the suppliers in the industry have an ACE up their Sleeve for new products. Maybe we should be asking what game are we playing and if an ACE is valuable? Or is this a magic act on Penn & Teller: Fool Us or America’s Got Talent?

SAE 2018.02.16 Vision for a Roadmap to Autonomy from Business Accelerants™ on Vimeo.



This last month, the ECE took a step toward forcing more ACEs by following the USA lead of putting specific limits on vehicles for emissions of CO2 and particulates. There was a cry from the industry, something like gears grinding in a transmission. On the other hand, or up the other sleeve, we’ve seen some mature suppliers in the trucking industry back off from SAE Level 4 automation and spend more time talking about enhancing their current Level 2 safety offerings.

The tractor is not the only part getting more automated, connected, and electrified. That formerly dumb and dumber trailer is getting smart and smarter. Trailer tracking has been around for well over a decade, but is going to see increasing penetration. It’s not just about the last mile. There is a lot of productivity to be gained in freight transit of all the other miles. At TCA and TMC we will be discussing this topic and how fleets will benefit.

This last year, I had an opportunity to learn about other trailers. Did you know that there are more recreational vehicle travel trailers sold per year than class 8 trailers? I still have not determined how many utility trailers used for horses, small construction equipment, and boats are made. All of these have various interests in smarter trailers. GM and Ford have come out with features on their light and medium duty pickup trucks to make it easier to back up with cameras and automated controls.

No matter what you call it: WABCO ACE (Autonomous, Connected, Electric), Daimler CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric), ACE is the CASE with the HAM (Helpful Artificial Man/Machine) or ACES (Autonomous, Connected, Electric, Safe), it has to address real-world problems and opportunities in the freight movement business such as: Safety, cost, driver turnover, driver shortage, technician training, freight visibility for end customer, and speed of delivery.

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