Consumer electronics take centre stage in commercial vehicle engineering

Autonomy and electric power are two of the big themes on everyone's minds

The unprecedented extent to which consumer electronics are influencing commercial vehicle development was underlined this month in Las Vegas at the huge annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Exhibitors at this year’s CES include the DAF Trucks parent group, Paccar, and multinational commercial vehicle components and systems suppliers such as Continental and ZF.

Continental’s cascaded robot delivery

Continental’s exhibit sought to show how robots in autonomous vehicles could be used in future for both “last-mile” and “first-mile” parcel deliveries.

“With the help of robot delivery, Continental’s vision for seamless mobility can extend right to your doorstep,” says Ralph Lauxmann, head of systems and technology at the group’s chassis and safety division.

Continental robo dog cascaded robot delivery system, CES 2019
Who let the robo dogs out? Continental, apparently.

“Our vision of cascaded robot delivery leverages a driverless vehicle to carry delivery robots, creating an efficient transport team. Both are electrified, both are autonomous and, in principle, both can be based on the same scalable technology portfolio.

“These synergies create an exciting potential for holistic delivery concepts using similar solutions for different platforms. Beyond this technology foundation, it’s reasonable to expect a whole value chain to develop in this area.”

Not to be outdone by one of its main rival “tier-one” automotive industry suppliers, ZF used this year’s CES event to demonstrate a refinement to the self-driving light commercial vehicle technology unveiled in Germany last year (Commercial Vehicle Engineer July 2018).

ZF hails the Robo Taxi

The ZF “Robo Taxi” has no conventional controls such as steering wheel and pedals. The taxi is hailed with a smartphone or tablet computer and the vehicle has no driver. It is fully autonomous.

ZF Robo Taxi
ZF’s autonomous ride-hailing concept, called Robo Taxi

“Automation, electrification and networking are critical enablers as the transport of people and goods continually increase in urban centres,” says Torsten Gollewski, ZF’s head of advanced engineering.

“With our extensive systems competence, ZF is enabling and shaping next-generation mobility. Our flexible and modular system solutions are not only attractive for conventional car manufacturers, but also for new companies entering the mobility market.”

From The Strip to the street

The direct impact that CES exhibits can have on trucks, vans and buses in production became more apparent than ever two years ago at the launch of the “new generation” Scania truck range.

The software used in its latest Active Prediction cruise control system was first shown by Continental (under the “dynamic eHorizon” banner) at CES in January 2015.

Paccar electric prototypes

Sceptical truck operators inclined to dismiss the three “zero-emission” trucks shown by Paccar at this year’s CES as little more than pie-in-the-sky concept vehicles may want to think again.

The trio is made up of two battery-electric Peterbilt tractors, the 220EV and 579EV, and a hydrogen fuel-cell electric Kenworth T680 developed in a joint venture with Toyota.

Kenworth, DAF and Peterbilt electric prototypes, CES 2019
Paccar’s trio of electric prototypes

All three drivelines are said to be undergoing field trials right now with truck fleets in North America and Europe.

“Paccar is investing in the latest technology across its portfolio of industry-leading products and services,” says chief technology officer Kyle Quinn.

“The Paccar innovation centre in Silicon Valley, California enhances the company’s access to emerging technologies and talent from around the world.  CES is an outstanding forum to showcase Paccar’s advanced engineering leadership.”

Tim Blakemore
Tim Blakemore
Tim Blakemore is an award-winning automotive journalist and the former editor of our sister title, Commercial Vehicle Engineer magazine. He is also the UK representative on the panel of judges for the biennial, pan-European Trailer Innovation Award scheme.