IoT Trucking: Managing connected vehicles and the transition to autonomous electric semi-trucks


The Internet of Things (IoT) is bringing a new level of automation to business operations, and companies in every industry are in a race to be the first to utilise IoT services that increase efficiency and change the face of their industry.

In the realm of vehicles, companies such as Tesla, Waymo, and Uber have been in tight competition to develop automated, data-driven, electric-powered fleets that will greatly reduce operating costs through efficiency and safety upgrades. A recent entrant into the autonomous trucking race is Daimler, who announced in early June that they are beginning development of an electric semi-autonomous trailer truck with an aim to start mass production for the U.S. market by 2021, says Carmi Brandis.

According to PwC, legacy automakers captured 70% of the auto industry’s global profits in 2015. However, stiff competition from newer IoT-driven automakers like Tesla and Waymo could reduce their share to less than 50% by 2030. To combat this trend, and to stay relevant in an increasingly connected world, legacy automakers like Daimler have recognised the importance of developing a competitive autonomous vehicle for trucking fleets.

The challenges facing electric autonomous trucking

There are many interesting complications that an automated trucking fleet has to face that overlap autonomous consumer vehicles, such as Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) communication apparatus that will allow a connected car to communicate with the road around it and react in real time to road conditions, traffic, and other potential hazards. However, the long-haul trips and greater towing capacity that are necessary functions of trucking fleets present their own unique set of logistical challenges that the IoT system must consider.

For example, an autonomous trucking network requires sophisticated connections to determine location, availability, fuel level, mileage, and diagnostic data that is actionable over long distances. When an issue arises, the vehicle must be capable of directing itself to a facility for refueling and preventative maintenance. These growing networks also must integrate seamlessly with existing fleet infrastructure.

In addition to basic logistical considerations, semi-trucks with electric engines face the challenges of weight and distance capability. Class 8 trucks in the U.S. are required by law to operate under 80,000 pounds, and electric batteries are considerably heavier than standard twin diesel fuel tanks used in long-haul trucking. Furthermore, Tesla claims their truck battery only will be able to drive for 500 miles before it requires recharging, which is roughly 25% of the distance that is capable from a traditional diesel-powered semi.

For now, this will limit electric-powered trucks to short or medium-distance hauls as opposed to cross-country, long-distance movement. However, as automakers continue development of electric-powered semis, they are working to increase longevity and reduce battery weight and size to effectively compete with long-haul diesel engines.

Regardless of the current limits of electric trucking batteries, the replacement of diesel semis for short and medium hauls could greatly reduce the carbon footprint of the trucking industry. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, freight movement accounts for 16% of all corporate greenhouse gas emissions, making it one of the largest carbon footprint contributors. By transitioning to electric-powered green trucking with connected IoT infrastructure, freight companies will have a significant positive impact on environmental outcomes.

To effectively meet the challenges of autonomous and semi-autonomous trucking, automakers need an IoT solution that is flexible, scalable, and easily deployable across multiple vehicle models and in unique conditions. One way to achieve this flexibility is through Granular Entity Modules (GEM).

GEMs are self-contained applications that can operate, sustain, and maintain a service function―from common operations like data transport, caching, or authentication to highly specialised tasks, such as GPS location or custom device controls. GEM sets can be further organised into specialised capsule farms that collect information and perform sophisticated command and control functions.

GEMs and capsule farm architecture enable the rapid deployment, modification, or removal of applications while maintaining the security and overall functionality of a connected automotive fleet. As connected fleets grow in size and continually integrate new autonomous vehicle assets with retro-fitted legacy vehicles, capsule farms create a more orchestrated vehicle connectivity experience designed to support the secure interchange between data sources and applications.

Connected trucking: Getting there

The Aeris Mobility Platform provides support for connected trucking fleets around the world with an IoT infrastructure designed for speed, agility, flexibility, scalability, and security. Our unique service offerings and future-proven IoT technology allow our clients to customise their IoT vehicle management solution and access vehicle data from one central cloud-based hub.

Whether you are an automaker who is entering the connected car business or expanding an existing offering, Aeris allows you to rapidly scale and enhance your service portfolio with confidence. The Aeris Mobility platform combines Aeris’ capsule architecture with its existing expertise in optimising wireless connections to ensure performance reliability while managing and mitigating cost.

To learn more about Aeris’ end-to-end solution, read our white paper, Aeris Mobility Platform: Simplifying Complex IoT Services Delivery on connected vehicle services and how the Aeris Mobility Platform simplifies complex IoT services delivery.