Consider a future where autonomous trucks drive to autonomous warehouses, where automated robots load cargo into the trailer. The truck knows which warehouse to visit, which dock has the load, which specific packages need to be loaded, and where the load is destined to arrive. All of this information is communicated via telematics data, without a human ever having to say a word or lift a finger. This reality could be closer than you think.
“That’s not pie in the sky at all,” says Dennis Skardadinski, chief engineer at Great Dane. “Painting a picture taking humans out of the entire supply chain… believe me, there are all kinds of discussions around that happening in the future.”
Telematics devices like Great Dane’s FleetPulse smart trailer telematics system are already capable of producing the autonomous data building blocks—such as the up-to-date health status of safety components—to reach Level 4 or Level 5 autonomy. However, the industry is still working on connecting the necessary components to the telematics system.
“In theory, you could build a trailer that has the capability to be extremely intelligent and communicate in real time, but it would not have the capability to communicate all the way to autonomy,” Skaradzinski says. “An autonomous computer needs to make all these instantaneous decisions about moving forward, changing lanes, braking, decelerating, accelerating, and seeing objects. That communication needs to be a physical wire, not a wireless communication.”
In the aviation industry where safety and reliability are critical, for example, wired connections are used for ECU-to-ECU and ECU-to-telematics gateway communications. For this reason, Great Dane designed its FleetPulse system to communicate via both wireless (Bluetooth/wifi) and wired (CAN harnessing) connections.
“CAN and J1939 communication are industry standards in the trucking and automotive world,” says Skaradzinski. Additionally, the FleetPulse telematics device has a CAN Bus connection, allowing it to process data from future CAN enabled sensors.”
Skaradzinski says Level 4 and 5 autonomous trucks will require a wired connection with automotive Ethernet speeds far faster than what is available today. A fully-autonomous supply chain will then utilize both wired and wireless connections in harmony to function properly.