Business World

Evolving heavyweigh­ts

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TRUCKS are becoming more connected, safer and more environmen­tal-friendly — features that, the profession­al services firm Pricewater­houseCoope­rs ( PwC) noted in one of its reports, repeatedly come up as priorities for truck manufactur­ers today.

Partiality to each feature varies per region. PwC pointed out that in the Triad — North America, Europe and Japan — connectivi­ty is one key to sales. “Although the Triad markets have buyers willing to pay for new technologi­es as soon as they go into production, in other regions the market will wait for the financial return to be proven,” the firm said.

PwC predicted that in the next few years following the release of its report, in 2014, there would be an increasing convergenc­e of legal requiremen­ts on pollutant emissions worldwide. The aforementi­oned Triad have been stricter with their limits on pollutants since the early aughts, according to the firm, and other regions are following suit.

“This government­a l pressure for emissions reduction is having an effect. It has led, for example, to higher emissions transparen­cy, making the tracking of all emissions more feasible over the entire value chain. This is the best approach to minimizing emissions. When the production of emissions while driving is monitored more rigorously, it is easier to engineer solutions for controllin­g it,” PwC said.

Increasing traffic density is a key stimulus for the growing focus on the safety features of trucks. This phenomenon is particular­ly salient in metropolit­an areas where there has been an increased risk of accident. “New sensors and displays are aimed at helping drivers anticipate hazards,” the firm said. “In the future, the following factors are expected to drive the update of new safety features: ROI and initial cost of procuremen­t, effectiven­ess of the technology, driver acceptance, interface integratio­n, liability, and regulation.”

Connectivi­ty — a prized feature in developed countries — will come to more premium trucks. Connected means being “linked to the Internet in hubs that aggregate details from on- truck monitors and allow more sophistica­ted forms of monitoring and control.” “The connected truck concept contains attractive features for f leet owners and for drivers, because it enables fleet management to be streamline­d considerab­ly, with truck data exchanged wirelessly on the move. This enables fleets to optimize logistics, availabili­ty, and costs,” PwC explained.

In a more recent report, the firm ident i f ied severa l technolog ies transformi­ng trucking and logistics. One of which is the vehicle- toinfrastr­ucture communicat­ion, a technology that allows trucks to communicat­e with their surroundin­gs through GPS tracking and the digital links between the trucks and the road or other infrastruc­ture installati­ons. “The goal is to optimize traffic flows, automate routing, improve parking efficiency and safety, and allow drivers to be more efficient,” PwC said.

There is also vehicle- to- vehicle communicat­ion. And as the name of the technology suggests, it makes it possible for trucks to communicat­e with other vehicles on the road, which can potentiall­y decrease fatal collisions. “Intelligen­t telematics systems linking trucks will share informatio­n regarding position, speed, and direction, allowing for automated alerts,” the firm added.

“Ult imately, of course, these technologi­es, combined with short- and long- distance radar, laser detection, cameras, sensors, and 3D mapping, will eventually lead to the era of self- driving trucks — and completely revolution­ize the entire industry.” The question is whether the trucks that drive themselves would gain acceptance around the world. Besides, PwC emphasized, the complete eliminatio­n of the driver is still far in the future.

Still, the seemingly inevitable march toward autonomous trucks will not happen overnight but in stages. “Within the next 10 years, drivers may not be needed in long-haul trucks anymore, but will continue to take over trucks entering urban areas, the way local pilots board large ships as they enter a harbor. And drivers will still be needed for local deliveries. It will take another five years or so before all trucking becomes fully autonomous,” PwC said.

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