8 Things to Expect on Tomorrow’s Trucks
Fleet demands, changing freight patterns and government regulations are driving changes in vehicle design and specs.
December 2013, TruckingInfo.com - Cover Story
6. More safety features
We’ll almost certainly see more penetration of high-tech safety systems such as collision avoidance, lane departure warning, rollover prevention and stability control, says Ryder’s Perry. “CSA has definitely driven that from the accountability standpoint.” They may well be mandated by the federal government some day.
TMC’s survey predicts greater than 80% usage of lane departure warning systems and collision warning/mitigation systems. They believe we’ll see over 60% usage of blind spot monitors, and more than 40% usage of cameras monitoring the driver.
Peterbilt’s first-generation SuperTruck concept vehicle approached the 10-mpg mark.
These features will continue to improve and add more capabilities and integration with other systems in the coming years. SmartDrive, for instance, recently announced integration of its camera-based system with collision mitigation systems from third-party suppliers.
Maverick’s Jeffress speculates that the advanced systems we see today could perhaps be paired with even more advanced computer algorithms that operate intelligently based on the individual driver.
“If a system can prevent you from following closer than, say, 3 seconds, then it should be able to learn an operator’s habits and adjust accordingly,” he says.
Safety innovations aren’t always about computers. Navistar, for instance, showcased a corner illumination lamp on its Project Horizon truck, which is automatically activated with the turn signal. As the driver signals to turn, four corner LED lights are activated, illuminating the corner to provide the driver increased visibility before the turn.
7. More medium-duty cabovers
Fuso’s Bloom predicts we’ll see an increase in medium-duty cabovers for urban applications, while vocational trucks will largely still be conventionals. In fact, he sees the re-entry of more low cabovers in the Class 6 and 7 market, thanks to their maneuverability, sightlines and overall efficiencies in an urban environment.
Kenworth’s Class 6 K270 and Class 7 K370 cabover medium-duty trucks, introduced about 18 months ago, are making far more inroads into the market than the company’s previous forays into this segment, say company officials.
Doug Powell, medium-duty marketing manager, says these trucks are better suited to the North American market than the company’s previous attempts.
“We’re really pushing our dealers to interview the customer to really see what’s best for their application,” he says. “In a lot of cases the K370 will work better than the [conventional] T370.”
8. Connected vehicles and highways
We delve into this topic more in this article by HDT's Jim Beach – the idea of vehicles communicating with each other and with the infrastructure. TMC members believe vehicle-to-infrastructure communications are likely. (We already see a version of this with automated tolling and weigh station bypass systems.) Wireless communications between the tractor and trailer are seen as likely in the survey, and vehicle-to-vehicle communications are seen as probable.
Brian Heath at Drivewyze, which offers a smartphone-based weigh station bypass system, says weigh-in-motion and hours-of-service information could be exchanged wirelessly as the truck travels down the highway.
Looking further out, we could even see driverless vehicle platooning, the TMC survey says.
“The concept of driverless vehicles has intrigued me for many years,” says Maverick’s Jeffress. “What would a driverless tractor look like? Think of all the parasitic loads that could be removed – no need for HVAC, for instance. What would the efficiency of that second or third vehicle [in a platoon configuration] actually be? How does this thought process tie back to the safety technology advancements as well as CSA?”
Peterbilt’s Sproull says while autonomous vehicles are “a long way out, the technology is there. Demonstration vehicles today are showing that’s very feasible.” In fact, Peterbilt is involved in a platooning test project.
Freightliner’s Reed predicts that while we will continue to see active safety systems improve, trucks still need drivers for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, he says, “How can we help the folks behind the wheel be more effective – to be the safest, most fuel-efficient they can be?”
For some really far-out concept trucks, check out this photo gallery at: www.truckinginfo.com/futuretrucks.