Kenworth fields virtual driver coach

Kenworth Truck Co. has introduced the Driver Performance Assistant, an option on new T680 and T880 Class 8 tractor models spec’d with Paccar MX-13 engines and automated transmissions. The system is designed to give drivers immediate feedback on their driving performance.

“Competition breeds improved performance,” said Kurt Swihart, Kenworth marketing director. “The Driver Performance Assistant is a built-in virtual driver’s coach and a tool to improve driver performance for fleets and owner operators alike.”

According to the OEM, through the Driver Performance Center drivers receive immediate feedback on how their driving impacts wear on brakes as well as fuel economy.

“For example,” said Swihart, “the system lets drivers know how smoothly they braked to a stop after exiting the freeway. It monitors whether they have a soft or hard foot on the brakes. It also ‘rewards’ them with visual acknowledgment when using the engine brake since that also brings benefits to longer brake life.”

He also said the system provides feedback on “how they handled the driving challenge. The ‘assistant’ may calculate if they performed at a very high level– 80% or more– or it may give them a low score to help indicate where improvement may be made.”

During rest periods, drivers can push a button to view trip performance. “It displays an overall performance chart– it might show the driver is coasting at a 90% efficiency rating and gently braking 80% of the time,” said Swihart. “It then combines the scores to give an overall driver performance rating.”

The Driver Performance Assistant also provides “reminder tips” when the truck is parked to help maximize fuel economy. “For example,” explained Swihart, a ‘snowflake’ icon can appear to remind the driver that unnecessary air conditioning usage can pull down fuel economy by up to 2%. Or it might show a reminder that engine idling can consume up to half a gallon of fuel per hour. These little message reminders can help make more of a positive impact on performance than one might think.”

In addition, the Driver Performance Assistant can be customized and programmed to offer performance settings selected by fleets or owner-operators.

Swihart remarked that Kenworth “thinks fleets will utilize this technology, especially to help new or inexperienced drivers maximize performance. It’s also a tool for those fleets with driver performance incentives in place.”

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