One of the benefits of exhibiting at international events like the IAA Commercial Vehicles show is to see firsthand the trends and technologies shaping the future of trucking. Europe often embraces new concepts early, so in many ways the show is a preview for what will hit America’s asphalt in the coming years.
By far the biggest trends we saw that will impact the future of the trucking industry was the continued march toward autonomous vehicles and the leaps and bounds that are taking place in technologies that are making vehicles smarter and more efficient. This includes everything from communication between vehicles and dealers, to sensors with telematic capabilities for on-highway diagnosis of issues, to safety related equipment such as auto-stop in emergency situations and lane change assistance.
Although autonomous vehicles have consumers and the transportation industry buzzing, the shift to fully autonomous vehicles will take quite a while. Our infrastructure in North America is just not ready for this to happen yet. However, as Daimler demonstrated at IAA, in the not-too-distant future we’ll see a hybrid approach with the driver becoming less “involved” in the mundane task of over the road deliveries. In other words, the driver will be in control of the vehicle in congested areas. But once the vehicle merges onto an interstate highway, the electronic controls will take over, freeing the driver to do other tasks while the vehicle travels across wide-open spaces. As the vehicle nears its destination the driver will once again take control to maneuver for delivery.
Link’s Cab Suspension Innovations Provide a Better Ride, Better Protection
At Link being driven to outperform is more than our tagline, it reflects not being satisfied with the status quo. That’s how we’re able to look at something as traditional as cab suspensions and make sure it fits in this new age of high-tech vehicles. Our new category of Road Optimized Intelligence suspensions is designed with the future in mind.
One product you may have heard about is our Semi-Active Cabmate suspension. While still in the testing stages, it is an intelligent cab suspension that maximizes ride comfort for the driver and offers greater protection of electronics inside the cab. It’s ECU reads information hundreds of times per second from accelerometers and position sensors mounted on both sides of the cab, and instantly cushioning the blow by determining the optimum settings for the shock absorbers as the vehicle goes over rough terrain. This video from Heavy Duty Trucking really demonstrates the difference a driver will experience.
Link’s Auxiliary Suspension Innovations Take the Guesswork Out
Another suspension innovation we are developing is an auxiliary suspension that automatically raises or lowers based on the weight of the load. By eliminating the need for drivers to anticipate when to raise or lower the axle (or remember to), this suspension innovation will provide better fuel efficiency and less wear and tear on the tires and vehicle.
Finally, it’s no secret the trucking industry is struggling to recruit younger drivers. Higher wages alone won’t be enough to entice a new generation to enter the profession. It will require providing a more comfortable work environment and more intelligent equipment. We expect our Road Optimized Intelligence line of suspension innovations will help overcome this difficult challenge the industry faces.
Although these products are still in development, we are excited about the role they will play in the future of commercial vehicles. If you have any questions about them in the meantime, please let me know.