The VisionX concept study, which Bosch presents at the 2016 IAA Commercial Vehicles trade fair, discussed some ideas of how the future might look behind the wheel of a truck. The study revealed how connectivity combined with modern display and control instruments can provide the basis for intelligent cargo and route management as well as automated driving. It also presents the concept of platooning, which will make drivers’ lives easier on long journeys in the future.
Efforts to improve conditions for drivers start in the cab. “Right now, a truck driver’s workplace is just a jungle of switches and levers,” said Heyn. “It does not lend itself to intuitive operation at all.” This increases the risk of mistakes in the driver’s cab: the nerve centre of long-distance driving. This cockpit environment will undergo radical changes in the future. “We want to create an interface that is as easy to use as a modern smartphone,” Heyn continued. One way to improve working conditions is to introduce clear, hierarchal control structures for rarely used functions together with displays adapted to each specific situation, such as convoying. This approach involves an electronic resource manager, which works in the background to keep the information and indications displayed to drivers at a sensible minimum, allowing them to focus their attention on the road. The cab of the future will be enhanced with a system of displays and cameras that monitor the traffic behind the vehicle, effectively replacing rear-view mirrors. Besides providing a better view when changing lanes, this system will also overcome the problem of blind spots. What’s more, the addition of a night mode will improve the driver’s vision in the dark.
Platooning will make drivers’ lives easier on long journeys in the future
“Automated trucks are the future, and we will be playing a major part in their development,” said Heyn. In the commercial vehicle sector, Bosch is currently focusing on automated driving on freeways. “We are looking at real-world use cases where automated driving offers the greatest benefits.” Platooning involves multiple trucks traveling in a platoon with 10 to 15 meters between them, all following a lead vehicle to which they are electronically connected and linked along a virtual longitudinal axis. All the trucks in the platoon accelerate, brake, and steer in sync with the lead vehicle. First and foremost, automated driving in the slipstream of the truck in front cuts fuel consumption by up to 10%, but it also makes the driver’s work easier and improves safety. When a truck turns onto the freeway, it is initially steered by the driver until it receives data identifying a suitable convoy. The same applies when the truck leaves the platoon to exit the freeway. Depending on how it is configured, automated platooning is likely to take at least another five to ten years to reach maturity. Until then, Bosch assistance systems will fill the gap to help truck drivers manage congestion, change lanes, make turns, and bring their vehicles to a full stop in increasingly dense volumes of traffic. Bosch accident researchers estimate that, of all accidents caused by trucks involving physical injury, 90% could be avoided in the future by using these systems.
Logistics processes go digital at last
Although the clipboard for shipping documents is still ubiquitous at many freight forwarders’ offices, its days are numbered. As in so many other areas, the future here is digital. Thanks to increasing connectivity, those involved in the cargo management process will be able to use an app to exchange data securely and exclusively among themselves in a simple and fully electronic process. This will eliminate a lot of paperwork for the forwarding company, customer, and driver. Service centres will constantly monitor the cargo of a connected vehicle, protecting it against theft and thus protecting drivers against attacks as well.