The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has been the place where new electronic gadgetry and innovation would be showcased by high tech manufacturers.
Computers, smart watches, tablets new audio systems, all manner of household smart tech and transport innovations.
CES, may have once been the bastion of electronic gadgetry but in recent years automotive companies have also been an important part of CES. Even so finding Seattle based truck giant Paccar at CES would have been the last exhibitor you would have expected to see at the massive electronics expo a few years ago.
For many years, the CES has painted a bright future for self-driving vehicles and other AI-powered inventions that could replace humans.
Paccar, was however at CES this year and was in fact the only major commercial vehicle OEM at the 2022 Expo, and it was touting its autonomous truck future.
Paccar did point out that the technology is for people and that humans driving trucks across the globe can really benefit from the technology.
After making its debut at CES in 2018 with an autonomous Peterbilt, Paccar’s past concepts displayed outside the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center have become actual fleet products. Paccar executives this week said it was important to show off the power of truck technologies that are making the roads safer, the air cleaner, and drivers less stressed.
“Over the years that Paccar has been displaying at CES, we’ve seen the maturity of our products develop from a very early stage prototype that we were showing several years back to production today,” said Stephan Olsen, general manager of the Paccar Innovation Center.
Just two years ago, at the last in-person CES, Paccar displayed three trucks on the Central Plaza, including a prototype autonomous Kenworth T680, along with a medium-duty battery-electric Peterbilt Model 520EV and a Kenworth K270E, none of which were available in the USA at the time.
Both of the two Paccar electric trucks are now in production and part of fleets in several states.
Paccar has announced it now has a strategic agreement with the self-driving technology company, which it officially announced in 2021.
That partnership was at the centre of Paccar’s CES 2022 exhibit, which featured a Peterbilt Model 579 equipped with the Aurora Driver system.
The midnight blue Peterbilt was flanked by two other heavy-duty, high-tech trucks including a electric Kenworth T680E, along with its Paccar battery charger and the DAF XG+, its European cabover which features its version of the MirrorCam technology which Daimler debuted almost four years ago.
DAF won Europe’s 2022 International Truck of the Year Award for the new long-haul prime mover, which runs on Paccar Connect, features drastically improved fuel efficiency than the model it replaces and many advanced driver assistance systems.
Paccar calls its camera based rear view system the Paccar Digital Vision System and as a result the XG+ has no exterior glass mirrors. Just like the Mercedes Benz MirrorCam trucks it uses high def LED displays inside the cab o each A pillar, showing the driver all around the truck, day or night, in any weather condition.
Australian’s may well see this technology on a DAF when the XG + comes here in the next couple of years, however, while the tech has been adapted for Peterbilts, US road laws require that trucks must have glass mirrors, negating the benefits of the Digital Vision Systems.
“The same technology platform is available on Peterbilt trucks here in North America—however, regulations require us to have physical mirrors as well,” Olsen said.
The Paccar Innovation Center in Silicon Valley is using the DAF as a development platform to explore integrating some of its technology and other new technology to create even more advanced driver assistance for its US trucks.
‘Things like making the truck safer around vulnerable road users, helping the driver with lane changes on crowded interstates—looking multiple lanes over and giving the driver the assistance to make that change in confidence, understanding the closing speed of traffic around the truck,” said Olsen.
“We’re taking advantage of being in the Silicon Valley ecosystem to find those bits of technology, bring them on board the truck, and then understand if that is something that we want to invest in for a future product release down the road. That’s what we’re using our DAF truck as a platform for that work.”
“Paccar’s global reach has its advantages, many of the underlying architecture of our vehicles are global in nature,” Olsen added.
“So work that we do on a DAF in ADAS or electrification can be shared across the Paccar family and brought into Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks. We think that it’s a fantastic opportunity to share the developments in Europe with new products to the North American marketplace.
Scott Newhouse, Peterbilt’s chief engineer, said that while Level 4 autonomy development for self-driving trucks gets a lot of attention because it would take the driver out of the cab, Paccar is also investing a lot into Level 2 autonomy and other ways to ease a driver’s day, such as the Digital Vision System.
“You talk a lot about safety. You talk a lot about efficiency,” said Newhouse.
“The important thing that people may not be seeing when you see these technologies is we’re always focused on the driver as well, because the driver is still the key to this being successful, they want to have a good, effective day behind the wheel,” he added.
Newhouse said Peterbilt is working on technology it will release in the next couple of years that will make the driver experience even better.
As the industry faces driver shortages, Newhouse sees technology helping alleviate it.
“The driver is so important, you can’t let the technology lower the values that we need to bring to the drivers,” he said.
“Making the vehicles interesting will make people want to join this industry, which is a fantastic industry with fantastic opportunities for people to build careers. We need technology to bring new people into this industry because the importance of this industry to our country—to the world—is key, and the guys who do it today are superheroes,” he said.
Stephan Olsen explained that trucking is the perfect environment to develop automated technologies, electrification technologies, and connected technologies.
“There’s a business case where the technology pays the customer back over time. So we see a lot of opportunities to excite the next generation of talent to come into the trucking industry,” Olsen said.
“We’ve been using CES as a platform to show the continued development of bringing technology to our customers, and Paccar also uses the show to continue its technology mission,” Olsen said.
“We take the opportunity to have business development discussions, to look at the latest, greatest sensors that we can bring into driver systems technology or automated driving,” he added.
” For instance, what advancements in battery management or charging solutions can we put into our next generation of electric vehicles to improve the efficiency range,” Olsen said.
“So we see opportunities like that daily here to see a lot of businesses and start ups who come to us to share what they have.”
Newhouse said a display at CES also gives the global truck maker opportunities to interact with people outside of the truck industry.
“It’s important that the public understand that the trucking industry—Peterbilt, Paccar, and our customers—is always working for safety, efficiency, just a better environment,” he said.
“I’m not so sure that most people when they drive down the highway realise the technology we’re developing and our customers are investing in is to make sure it’s a safe vehicle,” Newhouse concluded.