Will Cooper reports on the series of Commercial Vehicle Days virtual seminars held last month by Continental, focusing on the challenges facing fleets in 2020 and beyond, and the technology it is developing to help tackle them
With Covid-19 putting paid to many industry events and conferences this year, technology providers have been finding innovative ways to keep the sector apprised of their latest activities. Continental is no exception.
The group hosted an entire week’s worth of virtual briefings and panels in September, introduced by Gilles Mabire, head of the commercial vehicles and services business unit at Continental.
In his keynote address, Mabire outlined the particular challenges 2020 had brought and their impact on the road transport sector, praising truck drivers as heroes for their role during the coronavirus lockdown.
He also praised OEMs for their organised approach to the pandemic: voluntarily pausing manufacturing activities before resuming in a prompt but appropriate way, gradually increasing production step-by-step.
Given the uncertainty around the timescale of recovery, Mabire said it was important to identify the key challenges that lay ahead – namely, improving the sector’s environmental footprint, ensuring safety and security, and managing the shift towards connectivity in transport and services. Continental was working on solutions in all these areas.
New EU regulations on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction from trucks meant new compliance challenges for OEMs, and additional costs for fleets operating on minimal margins.
Continental believed there needed to be a trade-off between legitimate environmental protection goals and the industry’s need for efficiency and low margins, he said – something which applies all the more during Covid-19.
Mabire also acknowledged that the perception of trucks had worsened in recent years in terms of safety – and that rising traffic density on roads, combined with EU safety regulations coming into force in 2022, made these areas a priority.
In terms of the third area of focus, he added that connectivity-based services would accrue a value of €145 billion by 2030, with technological advances driving further demand.
“We want to democratise services for all fleets; it’s a matter of reducing the total cost of ownership,” he said.
“It’s a matter of improving the operation; it’s a matter of making our customer more successful.”
Developing solutions for these three key areas would necessitate moving away from ‘vertical’, ‘standalone’ architecture whereby different kinds of functionality – for example, tachograph, telematics and sensors – were considered separately.
Instead, a more ‘horizontal’ and ‘modular’ approach to the technology would be required – for example, through the further integration of smart sensor technology with telematics systems.
This, he said, was part of Continental’s DNA, with different parts of the organisation collaborating to drive innovation in the services offered.
Continental was a leader in telematics control units, he pointed out – with tens of millions of devices on the road already, and its first 5G solutions due in the next year – while also well known in the field of tachograph, and offering a wide portfolio of sensor technology.
Mabire said the complexity of highly autonomous driving (HAD) needed to be recognised, and that its prevalence was expected to grow step-by-step in line with regulations, starting with limited, specific-use applications, subject to testing and validation.
“It will take time,” he said, but added that he was sure HAD would succeed in further assisting fleet operations and reducing costs.
The first in-depth session, presented by head of business segment products and systems, Dr Georg Fässler, focused in part on the EU’s General Safety Regulation, and the on-board environmental detection technologies it necessitated.
Radar and lidar sensors, as well as cameras, played a major part in addressing this – detecting and classifying objects near to the vehicle, as well as detecting the position, motion and intention of other road users.
Perception technology will in the future look in all directions around the vehicle, Fässler said – not merely ahead, as is often the case today – as well as inside the vehicle to ensure the driver has his eyes on the road, and beyond the line of sight.
“Perception is not only what happens a few hundred metres around the truck – it’s also what happens ahead,” he added. “Is there an icy road? Is there traffic congestion?”
This knowledge would allow drivers to brake earlier, thereby increasing safety and reducing fuel consumption.
Continental’s eHorizon system, which already provides static road data for the route ahead such as topology, will in the future include traffic flow and road friction data.
In addition to existing systems such as automatic emergency brake assist and lane departure warning, the new EU regulations would require future systems not only to warn the driver when moving out of a lane, but steer the vehicle back into it.
Intelligent speed assist, meanwhile, would look at relevant traffic signs and automatically reduce speed to remain under the limit.
Meanwhile, a ‘moving off information system’ for urban areas proposed by the UNECE would be mandatory for new trucks from 2024, detecting and warning of road users in close proximity to the front of the vehicle.
Further expected technologies include improved blind spot information, automatic manoeuvres to protect vulnerable road users, and left turn assist at junctions.
In addition, existing driver drowsiness detection systems would need to be complemented by attention warnings and advanced driver distraction warnings.
While rear perception is widely available for rigid trucks, a 360-degree view is challenging for artics at present because of the differing configuration of trailers, as well as their capacity to obstruct sensors while turning.
New wireless transmission protocols would make perception behind trailers easier, with latency time a key consideration.
Once a 360-degree view of the vehicle is possible, so autonomous driving comes a step closer, contends Fässler.
Continental already has prototypes being tested on public roads, but in the future it expects driverless manoeuvring in confined areas to become possible, with the eventual goal of driverless Level 4 hub-to-hub travel.
With the increasing sophistication and connectivity of onboard CV systems, so the importance of ensuring cybersecurity also increases.
Dr Mathias Dehm, head of research and processes for product security at Continental, presented the findings of the group’s qualitative study into cybersecurity and digitalisation, which sought the views of stakeholders in the CV sector via interviews and an industry panel.
Participants included transport operators, authorities, associations and suppliers.
“One key point we found out is that the industry feels quite secure when it comes to cybersecurity, and only makes modest investment in this area,” Dehm said.
“However, this also leads to some risk,” he pointed out, including potentially leaving vehicles open to being hacked.
“Although fleets have not yet been in the limelight in cybercrime discussions, they are attractive targets due to their cargo, such as dangerous goods, their fleet size and their economic importance,” he said.
“Consequently, there is potential danger for logistics companies, for example when criminal hackers shut down fleets to extort ransom money.”
He pointed to low profit margins and a lack of awareness around the need for cybersecurity as reasons for lack of investment, with only half of companies investing in some kind of defensive measure, and the majority not planning any larger investments.
“Smaller companies in particular are still hesitant to invest in protecting themselves and their vehicle fleets from attacks,” he said, potentially making them attractive to hackers – whereas larger operators often have designated cybersecurity experts.
He advised that smaller fleet operators should limit their use of custom cybersecurity applications, and instead favour off-the-shelf solutions from trusted providers, to ensure the frequent software updates necessary for protection.
Staff training and awareness, including around updates, were also key, he said – as was building expertise, including via external consultancies.
Jesse Sultanik, head of compliance at Continental subsidiary Argus Cyber Security, echoed the latter point, and highlighted the advantages of conducting analysis and risk assessment to determine their specific vulnerabilities.
Forthcoming regulations and standards will oblige vehicle manufacturers to ensure software is properly updated, and that vehicles will be cybersecure over their lifetime.
This was the topic of a presentation by Dr Markus Tschersich, Continental’s manager for security and privacy standardisation and regulatory affairs.
He highlighted cautionary tales of previous cybersecurity breaches, including the Jeep Cherokee hack, in which hackers were able to remotely brake a car travelling at speed on a US highway.
A new UNECE regulation, in force in the EU for all new vehicle types from July 2022 and for all new registrations two years later, includes requirements for cybersecurity management systems to be certified, and introduces minimum requirements for threat mitigation.
As well as applying to trucks, it will also require type approval of trailers with electronic components, and will work in tandem with an ISO standard relating to the development of industry solutions to cybersecurity challenges, identification and mitigation of threats, and risk and incident management.
Continental’s strategy for developing cybersecurity solutions was outlined by Martin Böhner, head of product management security and OTA at subsidiary Elektrobit, an automotive software supplier.
The essential elements for end-to-end cybersecurity, he said, were making attacks as difficult as possible; understanding in real-time when and how a hack was taking place; and mitigating the damage while also ‘immunising’ the fleet within hours, via over-the-air software updates.
He highlighted the importance of a cybersecurity management system being in place for a vehicle’s whole lifetime, via ECU security updates, to prevent hacks that could result in data theft, eavesdropping, and compromise driving.
Franck Bigot, sales manager for Continental ITS business segment, outlined one of the group’s most recent developments – a cloud-based solution for keyless commercial vehicle access, based on existing passenger car technology.
Continental’s ‘Key-as-a-Service’ system for CVs deploys a smartphone app to provide on-demand vehicle access, with authorisation granted via the cloud and a control module. It will be offered via Continental’s customer partners rather than directly through an app of its own.
It allows the driver to open, lock and start the vehicle using their smartphone, while giving transport managers the ability to easily authorise or withdraw access remotely.
The keyless system can be easily retrofitted, says the firm, and is said to improve efficiency during driver changes or vehicle repairs; a ‘master key’ could be made available for a fleet-owned workshop’s head mechanic, for example.
The technology is also likely to be beneficial for fleet rental companies, Franck Bigot contends, due to the increased ease of picking up vehicles outside business hours.
“The driver could just close the rented truck at his or her destination, and go home, knowing that someone else will pick it up, without ever needing the physical key,” he said.
If a driver called in sick at short notice, a second driver could be quickly deployed without the need for a physical key, he added, having been granted remote authorisation.
And if a driver’s smartphone is out of charge? The fleet manager will be able to open the truck via SMS, allowing the phone to be recharged and the engine to be started.
On the final day of the series, Continental turned its attention to tachograph, and how the latest intelligent iterations of the device can double as versatile problem-solvers and secure data transmitters in areas not directly related to drivers’ hours.
By September 2023, a second generation of smart tachographs will be mandatory for all new vehicles, in order to meet the requirements of the EU’s mobility package.
All trucks engaged in international work will then require retrofits by September 2025 – while by July 2026, light commercials from 2.5t to 3.5t operating internationally will also require second-generation smart tachographs.
Marcello Lucarelli, head of the commercial vehicle fleet services business segment for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), outlined some of the possibilities resulting from smart tachographs’ ability to transmit trustworthy data.
Current benefits of the smart tachograph include the ability to offer per kilometre vehicle leasing, development of driver incentives for compliance, and the transfer of fuel management data, he said.
However, Continental’s current smart tachograph, DTCO 4.0, “is just the beginning of the new era”, Lucarelli said. By the beginning of next year, a software update will roll out, known internally as DTCO 4.0e.
By 2023, the second-generation smart tachograph, DTCO 4.1, will be released, offering the additional compliance features required by the EU’s mobility package, including features to help better regulate cabotage and the posting of workers.
The technology incorporates satellite detection in order to determine when international borders are crossed, and thereby how many trips have been made outside the home country. The data relating to posting of workers could also be utilised for payroll purposes, for example.
Tachograph technology could also be deployed for tolling purposes across the continent.
“Thanks to the DSRC (dedicated short-range communication) interface, the smart tachograph could be the key to harmonise European toll collection in the future,” said Marcello Lucarelli.
The tachograph could calculate and record any charges incurred, he said, and feed the data into the European Electronic Toll System, allowing tolls to be paid throughout the whole of the EU.
“This means that fleet managers would no longer have to invest in a large number of different toll boxes relating to each country where they do their business. It is perfectly possible to imagine having the tachograph do this for them,” he added.
He also highlighted the financial benefits operators could reap from the use of reliable tacho data to inform fleet management processes – via Continental’s TIS-Web service, for example, which ensures driver and vehicle data can flow between its own cloud and third-party fleet management systems.
One example given was the automated dataflow from TIS-Web into services provided by freight exchange platform Timocom. Driving, rest time and GPS data from tachographs can be used to inform Timocom’s data on the availability of drivers and vehicles to pick up the requested cargo.
Another area that will benefit from intelligent tachograph technology is onboard weighing, Lucarelli said, which will be supported by new functionality introduced with DTCO 4.0e.
New regulations on on-board weighing which come into force next May will require EU member states to measure CV gross vehicle weight more frequently – but from 2024, higher levels of accuracy and data security will be required.
Continental contends that, since loading data will have to be transmitted on request, it makes sense to perform this via the tachograph. Since the tacho units already incorporate a DSRC antenna, no additional costs are involved in the secure transmission of the data.
Most EU countries have decided to fulfil the new load monitoring requirements with ‘weighing in motion’ scales built into roads for the first phase of the new regulations starting next year.
However, technical project manager Marc Leinemann said that the regulations give vehicle and trailer manufacturers the opportunity to offer a real-time on-board weighing system to help ensure compliance.
Continental’s real-time on-board weighing system would also help drivers and fleets both ensure maximum loading efficiency, and avoid penalties – which will be more frequent following the regulatory changes – he explained, since data is available before the journey begins.
It will also allow fleets to identify vehicles whose capacity is not being fully utilised, he added; and the data collected could additionally be used to establish new business models, such as haulage charges based on the actual weight of goods transported, or a fair tolling system which charges road users based on the weight of the load being carried.
The system provides individual axle load weights which are used to calculate overall figures. Both are transmitted via Bluetooth to the driver and via the cloud to the fleet manager.
It incorporates sensors on both the tractor unit and trailer. Various sensor types may be deployed depending on the application, either measuring an air pressure change, a change in shock absorber height or the level of strain on the axle.
While current CO2 emissions regulations are primarily aimed at the vehicle manufacturers and focus on the use of the VECTO tool to simulate emissions and fuel consumption of individual vehicle configurations, further rules affecting fleet operators were expected in the future.
With fuel accounting for up to 30 per cent of operators’ total costs, Continental emphasises the importance of tyre choice in not only achieving significant CO2 reductions, but also increasing fuel efficiency.
Lutz Stäbner, head of product management for truck tyres, EMEA, emphasised the diversity of road transport applications; knowing what a fleet is transporting, for what distance and under what conditions all influence the ideal tyre choice.
Key to reducing CO2 was optimised rolling resistance, although in some applications such as construction or the transport of wood, durability had to be the first priority.
He said that the firm’s latest, third-generation long-distance tyres, Conti EcoPlus, could offer a saving of up to 1.9 litres of fuel per 100km, per truck, compared to the previous generation.
This could represent an annual saving of more than $2,700 per truck, and a CO2 reduction of more than 6t.
Stäbner highlighted the new Conti EcoRegional truck tyre range, which is now available in five core sizes for steering (HS3) and drive (HD3) axles, for regional transport and highway use.
CO2 reductions are made possible on the HS3 tyres via an innovative tread design, says Continental, and on the HD3 tyres via a rubber compound optimised for rolling resistance.
At the same time, the firm adds, performance criteria such as mileage, robustness and traction are not compromised.
Forthcoming tyre technologies highlighted included remote and app-based tyre monitoring, predictive tyre maintenance, and advanced sensor features such as tread depth and mileage estimation.