MAN Truck & Bus

Connectivity - the future of commercial vehicles

The future of commercial vehicles

15/06/2020

Connectivity is gaining momentum: data-driven mobility services are making truck and bus fleet management more efficient than ever. They are enabling perfectly coordinated operating times, routes and maintenance scheduling. This reduces operating costs. 80 percent of all commercial vehicles will be networked by 2030.

 Fleet managers optimize logistics using digital real-time control over their vehicle data

Data analysis Fleet managers can optimize logistics with real-time digital control of their vehicles' data.

Mobility in transition

Commercial vehicle technology is rapidly developing. New drive technologies, digital solutions and intelligent networking mean that new vehicle concepts, new forms of use and even new business models are emerging within the commercial vehicle sector. What lies behind catchphrases like "technological transformation", "alternative drives", "digitisation" or "automated driving"? And what effect will this transformation have on the commercial vehicle industry in the coming years? MAN sheds light on the questions of future energy sources and drive concepts.

The commercial vehicle industry is changing – it's unmistakeable. The coming years will see new drive technologies gradually replacing the diesel engine, which has been further developed over decades and has proved itself a million times over. Algorithms, software and electronic systems are relieving the driver of more and more tasks, thus ensuring not only greater safety but also more economical operation of trucks and buses. Industry experts agree, however, that it will be another ten or more years before the majority of the world's bus and truck fleets are using alternative drive systems and a large number of autonomous commercial vehicles are travelling on public roads.

The fast lane is rapidly witnessing another trend which experts believe will change the transport industry and consequently the commercial vehicle industry forever: digitisation and connectivity.

Data collation is the basis for new applications

Industry outsiders using these two terms often initially think of smartphones, WLAN and mobile internet – and are not so far from the truth. Mobile devices and their connectivity to the internet and being able to exchange data with servers and other end devices in seconds are indeed prerequisites for the latest digital technology. But it doesn't always have to involve smartphones. The computer on board a truck or bus can also communicate with other systems via WLAN or the mobile phone network and retrieve or transmit data collected in the vehicle. Revolutionary EE architecture in the new MAN truck generation was specifically developed for this purpose.

Electronic vehicle systems have been collecting driving data for some time. Previously it usually required a diagnostic device and a physical connection in the workshop, for instance to extract fault messages from the vehicle's control units. This data can now be accessed via the mobile phone network so that in the event of a breakdown, for example, service technicians can take the right spare part with them and the truck or bus can be back on the road more quickly.

 Thanks to predictive maintenance, maintenance of commercial vehicles can be perfectly planned in logistics.

Timing is everything Thanks to Predictive Maintenance, maintenance of commercial vehicles can be perfectly planned into the logistics.

Yet fault messages are only a small, not to say tiny part of the available data. Countless radar, camera, acceleration, inclination, motion, pressure and temperature sensors in modern commercial vehicles continuously record an almost unimaginable amount of the most varied information, which can frequently be used for purposes other than those originally intended – if they are available to other applications.

The more users participate, the greater the benefit

One example now firmly established in many people's everyday lives is the traffic information provided by online map services. The high-tech giants' servers use the motion data from millions of smartphones to provide these services. Algorithms compare this data with the mapped road network and calculate to the minute where traffic is moving or where it is congested. Also: the more users take advantage of this service, the more data is available, the more accurate the information and the greater the benefit for the individual user.

Benefit-based models with data from as many users as possible are also a trend in the commercial vehicle industry. One example is the predictive maintenance that MAN Digital Services already offers today under the name MAN Servicecare: algorithms utilise the data from hundreds of thousands of vehicles, the driving profile, mileage, speed, temperature or other parameters transmitted via mobile data from a vehicle to a server in the central service centre to calculate the service life of certain vehicle components and report in good time when a repair or replacement is due. This enables expensive breakdowns and unplanned downtime to be avoided. And the same applies here too: the more fleet operators use this service, the better the predictive quality and the greater the benefit for the individual user.

Glossary


Error analysis via notebook

Fault analysis via notebook Algorithms calculate the life time of certain components in the vehicle and report early when a replacement is due.

80 percent of all commercial vehicles will be networked by 2030.

Mobility services offer massive potential

Data similar to predictive maintenance can also be used for fleet management. Precisely coordinated deployment times can be computed, as can the ideal route, optimised maintenance visits and of course operating costs – down to the last cent. This then lays the foundation for a business model called pay-per-use. Fleet operators no longer buy the truck or bus. They simply buy usage from the manufacturer and pay per kilometre or hour of use. This is also based on digital data from thousands of applications and vehicle networking.

Industry experts believe that these and similar digital services providing commercial benefits to users will bring lasting changes to the commercial vehicle sector in the coming years. A study by management consultancy McKinsey reckons that 80 percent of all commercial vehicles will be networked by 2030 – great potential for additional digital services. Potential that commercial vehicle manufacturers can exploit for themselves, as consulting firm Boston Consulting Group determined in a recent study. While their classic core business, the sale of trucks and buses, will tend to show low growth in the next few years, the authors forecast a tenfold

Transformation is not without risk

And this by no means takes all the potential of digitisation and connectivity into account. Countless data-based application options offer commercial vehicle manufacturers room for additional business models. But not without risk, as noted by the authors of "Truck Study 2018" from consultancy Strategy&. Because as providers of mobility services, such as the pay-per-use model, these manufacturers are likely in future to face competition from some rental companies and fleet operators and at the same time have to fear competition from financially strong technology companies like Uber, Google or Nvidia. Those not wanting to be left behind, the study concludes, must secure their place among the providers of digital and networked services at an early stage.

Text Andreas Lubitz

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