Dream Machine

When it comes to road freight, there is telematics and there is true connectivity. Welcome to Detroit Connect.

Freightliner, which leverages the global might of Daimler Truck, knows that full connectivity, including over-the-air vehicle updates, accurate diagnosis of faults and forensic detail of incidents, is the kind of technology that can really benefit customers.

The Cascadia, which dominates the massive North American market thanks to its class-leading fuel efficiency and advanced features, also brings new technology to the bonneted truck market in Australia.

Given its market-leading position, it is only natural that the Cascadia delivers a premium connectivity solution with unique features called Detroit Connect.

This is standard in every truck, which roll out of the dealership with a SIM card-equipped connectivity unit and five years of Detroit Connect for free.

Part of the Cascadia’s connectivity helps drive down fuel consumption using features like the Intelligent Powertrain Management, which uses satellite positioning data and topographic information to advise the truck when to change gears or when to coast in neutral in order to optimise fuel efficiency.

There are also telemetry elements, such as route and location information, but the Detroit Connect system goes further because it can give operators an immense amount of data from the truck’s advanced systems that third party telemetry systems just can’t see.

This is just one of the cases where the full integration of the Daimler Truck models and its own Detroit componentry, including engine and transmission and other systems, come into play.

Here is how Freightliner Australia Technical Support Engineer, Julian Wu, explains it.

“Any telematics solution can give you certain data, but Detroit Connect can actually tell you what the truck is thinking,” he says. “It can tell you exactly what the vehicle’s systems, such as the integrated radars and camera, are actually processing throughout any incident. This represents a wealth of valuable information.”

Indeed, the Detroit Connect system can tell the fleet operator everything from when the Advanced Emergency Braking System (AEBS) was engaged, to the throttle position, steering position, gear and braking actions.

It can present the incident in an overhead satellite map, with dots for each second of the event. A range of click down menus show graphs that extrapolate the various elements in meticulous detail.

These kind of details can be immensely useful in understanding what went wrong in any specific incident and potentially arming the company against any incorrect claims of fault.

The system also allows fleet operators to delve deep into the data to check on driver behavior using the truck’s vast array of sensors. Using the Detroit Connect system, fleet operators can go beyond the simple reports of overspeed notices or heavy brake incidents and use the Cascadia’s safety system data.

“You can really pick out any cowboys in your fleet,” Julian says.

For example, it is possible to see if a driver has triggered the Roll Stability Control, which is when the truck begins to brake or retard power in order to prevent a rollover.

Basically, it comes on if a driver is going too fast through turns. This information can be used to counsel a driver and potentially prevent an accident.

The system can see everything including Land Departure Warning alerts, sudden braking and AEBS triggers.

It is also able to tell the fleet operator whether the driver is switching some of these safety systems off, which may be against company policy.

Another important part of the Detroit Connect system is the ability to see faults and understand them far better than a third-party telemetry system can.

“Other telematics systems will take information from the J1939 Canbus. Some fault codes would be reported but not all of them,” Julian explains. “If they are reported, they are not going to be very detailed.”

This is important because an unclear fault code can cause great disruption.

“In many cases, a driver will see a warning light or fault code flash up and immediately pull over and call the fleet manager to ask if they should keep going or not. Often, it is hard to determine what kind of fault it is and whether it can cause more damage,” says Julian. “With Detroit Connect, the fleet manager is emailed a detailed description of the fault code within three seconds, whether it is serious or minor and the best course of action. It takes away the guessing games for the customer.”

If it is serious and a dealership technician is required to fix the truck, the fleet manager can give the technician this information, which helps to ensure they know exactly which parts and tools to bring and also gives an accurate location of the truck.

In situations where technicians have to drive hours to get the truck this can be of immense value. Some fault codes can be very minor but provide useful information.

For example, the truck can report low tyre pressure or higher-than-recommended tyre pressure, which can lead to tyre life issues.

Detailed engine reports are another strong point of the Detroit Connect system. Instead of asking the workshop to download the DDEC engine data, it can be accessed online at any time.

This shows a vast array of data from fuel consumption and AdBlue use to idle time and even the amount of time a driver has cruise control engaged.

Given that cruise control engagement is required for systems such as the fuel saving IPM feature, some operators have been able to improve fuel efficiency numbers by encouraging drivers to use cruise more often after seeing the DDEC reports.

The benefits of connectivity are already crystal clear, but Freightliner says there are even more exciting developments on the way.

It is currently working on a function that will allow customers to actually update their truck’s firmware over the air.

Setting a new speed limit for the trucks would also be achievable with a touch of a button and idle time limits could also be changed remotely.

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