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How Connected Trucks Will Change Logistics by 2020

The Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M), also called the Industrial Internet, (II), are changing customer relationships and workflow in the business-to-business (B2B) world. In the automotive industry, cars, trucks, and even motorcycles are using Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) technology, which uses a communications module that connects transmitters in the vehicles, and sensors in the road infrastructure, such as road signs and traffic lights. Through V2V technology, vehicles communicate with other vehicles and with the traffic environment.

Both the IoT and V2V are set to revolutionize logistics, so businesses must be prepared and ready for the change. Companies will have to adopt smart logistics in order to manage production and distribution in real-time. Automation for moving things, or the Internet of Moving Things (IoMT) soon is going to take an active role in the supply chain and logistics. Fleets of driverless trucks will become a norm.

Platooning trucks improve highway traffic and assist truck drivers

V2V technology is making it possible to efficiently operate trucks on a highway in close proximity, at a pre-set distance via radar, and with wireless communication. V2V technology improves highway safety and decreases truck fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The autopilot feature, which can be turned on and off at will, allows truck drivers to be able to take breaks and sleep during long distance journeys.  

Volvo, a leader in connected and autonomous vehicles, has been testing platooning in normal road conditions. By using sensors and inter-vehicle communication, the lead vehicle assumes the control over the speed of the vehicle group for a certain time and distance. This kind of vehicle organization improves the capacity of the highway contributing to traffic safety. It liberates the driver from the steering wheel for hours at a time. Watch Volvo's Vision 2020 concept truck designed to drive automatically in a platoon to increase driver efficiency and performance:  

In 2012, a Volvo truck was tested leading a platoon – a convoy in which vehicles automatically follow a lead vehicle – on a highway in real conditions among other vehicles. Watch the test below:

Wireless networks for IoT accelerate infrastructure readiness for connected vehicles

Standards and the availability of wireless network coverage to enable V2V and V2X need to be in place to make platooning a worldwide reality. To be in tune with this kind of development that will revolutionize driving and logistics, Proximus, a Belgian operator, became the latest EU operator to launch a wireless network for Internet of Things (IoT) in Belgium and Luxembourg before the end of this year. This will significantly accelerate the readiness of infrastructure for connected vehicles.

A need for standards & regulations

Meanwhile, companies like UPS are already thinking of deploying connected vehicles in their fleet. According to Maarten Verbanck, public relations supervisor, Europe at UPS, the company continuously tests developing technologies that offer potential for greater safety for their large vehicle fleet. “At this time, fully autonomous technology and regulation are still under development and certainly not ready for large-scale rollout,” Verbanck told EBN. “However, there are a number of promising sub-systems that are in advanced development for use in semi-autonomous applications.”       

“We will continue to work closely with technology companies that develop advanced vehicle systems and with regulators that set public policy in order to provide a real-world test environment for technological advances,” said Verbanck. “As the technologies are proven ready for large scale adoption, we'll work with the suppliers and regulators to enable rapid deployment in vehicle fleets.”

Indeed, to lead in tomorrow's logistics race companies will have to count with a connected fleet. 

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