24 Feb 2022
The E/E architecture used in MAN trucks is not only a requirement for networked and self-driving vehicles, it also facilitates the next stage of the company’s transformation and completely new business models.
In addition to the truck’s onboard processing power, its network connection to the fleet operator is ever more important. Current information on the location or condition of the vehicle is as essential to logistics today as the ability to update existing functions or install additional features in the truck – preferably over the air using a mobile interface.
Today, the TBM3 (Telematic onBoard Module 3) fitted on MAN trucks uses the 4G mobile communications standard to exchange data with the cloud. In the future, the higher-performance CM4 (Connectivity Module 4) will use 5G to send and receive data.
In addition to focusing on zero-emission powertrains and fully autonomous tractor units, this networking via the cloud and the development of corresponding digital customer services is at the heart of the “Smart Innovator” strategic direction.
“Networking means, for example, that we can send up-to-date traffic information tailored to trucks to the vehicles, or download data from the vehicle’s sensors, for example the condition of the brake discs, levels of fluids such as fuel or AdBlue, and the state of charge of the batteries,” explains Thomas Michelbach, head of Digital Vehicle Products and Services at MAN. “Our customers benefit from greater transparency and increased uptime by avoiding workshop visits – because in the future, we will be able to fix faults remotely with software updates or remote repairs.”
The implementation of innovative services like these is made significantly easier by the central E/E architecture. Many of these services rely on functions that were previously distributed between many individual control units, but which all now run on the CVM. Demand for new features is only set to increase in the future: while today’s trucks are networked for data exchange with the cloud, in just a few years they will have evolved into a software platform on wheels, with functions accessible wirelessly. “This will allow a completely new business model,” believes Michelbach. “In the future, MAN will be able to offer transport solutions, rather than just selling vehicles.” To achieve this, trucks will have to record the kilometres driven, for example, and autonomously bill the customer via the app.
These new functions will also lead to an increase in the volume of data that the vehicle exchanges with the cloud. While the 250,000 networked MAN vehicles currently each send or receive somewhere between 5 and 50 megabytes of data each day, further digitalisation and electrification of the powertrain from 2025 will result in an increase to more than 100 megabytes – partly because of constant software updates and new digital functions, such as payment at charging points. A leap in data availability and transmission will be the first step towards the automation that is on the agenda for 2027. By the end of product development, Michelbach estimates data availability of up to 2 terabytes per day for each truck using technologies such as 5G, 6G or Wi-Fi, with less data being transmitted depending on the current situation and field of application.
Consistent digitalisation means that by the end of this development process, the truck will be barely recognisable as such. In ten years, the human-controlled truck will have evolved into a fully autonomous data centre on wheels.
MAN is well prepared for this future. The company has laid the foundations for further development with its innovative E/E architecture. “This means that we will be bringing new digital services and software components to the market in the next few years, making our customers’ jobs easier,” says Michelbach. “Furthermore, MAN has long relied on the cloud for the operation of its intelligent applications – we have made good progress in this area too.”
Text: Christian Buck
Photos: Shutterstock/metamorworks | Niko Wilkesmann (Graphic)