Putting a computer in the cab of a big rig was a radical step back in 1988.
Trucking companies since then have added as many as 10 separate devices into vehicles, tracking everything from location to the time drivers spend behind the wheel and how often they pump the brakes.
Taking a page from the consumer electronics playbook, Daimler Trucks North America LLC plans to take the technology clutter out of truck cabs by installing a single platform right on the factory floor.
The software operates with the truck-maker’s touch screen, streaming data back to fleet managers and enabling drivers to manage the tech in their 18-wheelers the way they might handle a smartphone, even as they are hauling 80,000-pound industrial loads.
The idea is to help harness the torrent of data and reduce the clutter and duplication that has come as layers of technology have been bolted onto trucks. That should streamline work for drivers and fleet managers who now cope with a mounting pile of transportation apps and telematics equipment.
The technology from transport startup Platform Science works something like
App Store. The open platform lets trucking operators to add a customized mix of third-party software and connectivity services without having to install an array of aftermarket hardware. It also enables the apps to talk to one another, pulling data from the back end so drivers don’t have to keep entering the same information, such as their name or vehicle identification number.
“We are taking the model applied in the consumer industry and putting it on the truck,” said Anil Khanna, director of connectivity for the digital vehicle solutions division at Daimler Trucks North America. The company will begin rolling out the technology next year.
The truck-maker’s parent company,
, is the largest new investor in Platform Science’s recent $42 million Series B funding round, which was led by the venture-capital arm of industrial real-estate giant
an existing investor. Venture firm 8VC, NewRoad Capital Partners, Schematic Ventures and Cambridge Capital also participated in the round.
La Jolla, Calif.-based Platform Science was founded in 2015. The company, which has about 160 employees, plans to use the funding to hire more staff in the field as it looks to expand its market share. Founder and Chief Executive Jack Kennedy said the startup expects to turn a profit by 2022 but declined to disclose annual revenue.
The widespread consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets is pushing more logistics operators to incorporate similar technology into their businesses. Managers say user-friendly systems that resemble mobile apps can simplify operations and help cut training time for workers who have grown up using such devices.
Even highly manual operations like driving trucks are ripe for such advances. Trucking companies increasingly rely on software, sensors and other tools to manage routing, vehicle maintenance and regulatory compliance for fleets that haul goods thousands of miles across the country.
“They employ technology so they can continue to get bigger. There’s no way you can move the economy on a legal pad and a clipboard anymore,” said Mr. Kennedy, who previously served as president of Qualcomm Enterprise Services, which later became fleet-management software provider Omnitracs LLC, and was an executive at
parent company of The Wall Street Journal.
Having trucks arrive with the technology already installed will save time and money, said Shaleen Devgun, chief information officer at Green Bay, Wis.-based trucking company
which uses Platform Science’s technology.
“The idea here is not to surround the driver with apps a mile high and a mile deep,” he said.
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