With one-quarter of its sales now coming from commercial vehicle activities, Robert Bosch GmbH is moving beyond its fuel control, sensor and component products and into services that support advanced logistics systems.
Autonomous systems will reducing emissions, accidents and stress on distribution networks. The company is developing both products and services that will help “electrify, automate and connect” the commercial vehicle and logistics industries, according to Dr. Rolf Bulander, member of its board of directors.
“We want [trucks] to be beasts of burden, but not a burden for others,” he said during a press conference at the biennial IAA Commercial Vehicles show.
Although best known for its advanced emissions and fuel control technologies as well as safety-related systems, Bosch is already one the trucking industry’s biggest providers of Internet or connected services, according to Dr. Markus Heyn, the second board member speaking at the IAA press event. Revenue from connected services for trucking is now growing at an annual rate of seven to eight percent, he said.
On the topic of bringing electric powertrains to commercial vehicles, Bulander predicted that 80% to 90% of all trucks on the road in 2025 will still be diesel powered, but by 2030 one-quarter of all new trucks will be electrically driven.
Bosch will show off its electrified trailer axle at this year’s IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hanover. By introducing electric motors into a trailer’s axle, Bosch believes it can enable all sorts of benefits to the logistics industry, including limited autonomy.
Like passenger cars, an electrified semi axle could be used to recoup energy that would otherwise be lost. The motor can also act as a generator, capturing kinetic energy from a decelerating trailer and transferring that to a storage battery for later use. Bosch thinks it could work very well with a refrigerated truck, which could use the brake regeneration system to power its coolers, which Bosch claims can save as much as €10,000 (almost $12,000) per year.
It could even help power autonomous trailers. Current trailers are at the whim of the trucks pulling them, but if electric motors were installed in the axles, the trailers themselves could handle the last bit of travel from road to depot — albeit with some help from additional sensors on the truck and around the area. Considering how hard it is to back up a pickup with a trailer, nevertheless a big rig, I imagine truck drivers wouldn’t complain if the trailers backed themselves into loading bays.
For the long-haul segment where battery storage presents range and weight barriers, Bosch is currently working on fuel cell development with two partners, Nikola Motors in the U.S. and Weichai Power in China, which Heyn said expects to have one million fuel-cell vehicles on that country’s roads by 2030.
While completely autonomous or driverless trucks are further away than electric powertrains, driver assistance systems and other “stepping stones on the road to automation” should see “double-digit growth over the next decade,” according to Bulander. Turn assistance, blind-spot warning and predictive emergency braking based on Bosch radar sensors are already commercial products aimed at improving truck safety.
While the technical challenges are large, true driverless truck automation holds huge potential to help relieve both global shortages of qualified truck drivers and ever-increasing traffic congestion, Heyn said. Controlled environments like freight yards or “hub-to-hub” shuttles are the most likely candidates for early deployment of autonomous trucks, he said, offer solid and relatively quick paybacks for the sizeable investments required. Nearer term, truck platooning should bring both fuel economy and labor cost savings. Bosch plans participate in testing European platooning prototypes as early as next year.
New connected services are making life easier for truck drivers and logistics specialists
Connectivity platform for cloud-based services
Bosch uses a new connectivity platform to connect commercial vehicles throughout their service life, providing the technological foundation for such cloud-based services as predictive diagnostics and over-the-air software updates. The platform has two main components: the basic software module is the secure communication interface between the vehicle, the cloud, and the services, while the data management module enables commercial vehicle manufacturers or fleet managers to organize vehicle data, analyze it, and keep the vehicle software continuously updated.
Vehicle downtime is usually unplanned and, particularly in the case of commercial vehicles, often results in significant economic damage. Bosch’s predictive diagnostics registers and evaluates vehicle component and system states and continuously reports them to the cloud. Based on this data, faults can often be predicted and thus resolved in time. This reduces maintenance and service costs for commercial vehicles, and the lower number of breakdowns increases their availability.
In the future, Bosch’s electronic horizon will become smarter with every trip. This service is based on high-definition maps with topographical data for the route ahead. Engine and transmission management then takes this data into account in order to select the most efficient driving strategy possible and further reduce consumption. The electronic horizon has been available for several years, but now Bosch is enhancing it. In the future, the function will determine whether the information stored in the map agrees with actual conditions on the road. For example, if the vehicle camera detects a speed limit sign on the road that specifies 30 kph, but the map says the limit is 50 kph, the truck’s navigation system will learn the new speed. In the future, this information will also be shared with other trucks via the cloud. The smart electronic horizon is set to go into production in early 2019.
Where are my goods and how are they doing? These are questions logistics specialists and customers ask. Bosch’s Transport Data Logger provides answers and makes the goods supply chain transparent. Measuring around 10 sq. cm, the small box with integrated sensors monitors the transport of sensitive goods and measures temperature, humidity, tilt, and shock events during transport. The measured values are displayed in a smartphone or tablet app and documented. If certain values are exceeded, the app triggers an alarm and potential damage to the goods can be detected early on and attributed to the person who caused it.
The central gateway controls data exchange between the ECUs in the truck and the outside world across all bus systems, and is therefore the central communication node for connected commercial vehicles. Modern transmission and encryption technologies make the data exchange particularly secure. They prevent unlawful access to the vehicle network using firewalls or the intrusion detection system developed by Bosch subsidiaries ETAS and ESCRYPT.
Digital side-view mirrors
The digital mirror camera system developed by Bosch and Mekra Lang for side-view mirrors is going into production in 2019. It replaces the two large mirrors on the outside of the vehicle’s cab with video sensors, which reduces drag and lowers fuel consumption by as much as 2%. Images from the cameras are displayed in real time on high-resolution monitors in the driver’s cab. The system adjusts the monitor display according to situation: long view on the freeway, large angle of view in city traffic, and high contrast for night driving. And thanks to Bosch’s EasyFit camera system, existing truck fleets can also be retrofitted with digital side-view mirrors. This system is based on four ultra-wide-angle cameras that show a 360-degree view around the vehicle.
Digital instrument cluster
To ensure easy and distraction-free operation of the ever expanding connectivity, driver assistance, and infotainment functions in trucks, Bosch is bringing digital instrument clusters into the cockpit. In addition to the conventional speedometer view, the display will show function information, route planning graphics, and images from the reversing camera or night-vision device, prioritized according to the driving situation. Drivers are always shown exactly the information they need at any given moment, which reduces complexity and allows them to focus entirely on the road.
“There is clearly a lot of potential to be exploited here,” Heyn said. “We call this logistics 4.0.”
To learn more, visit Bosch here.