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Are You Transportation Tech Savvy?

By on January 1, 2020

Understanding Evolving Terms & Technologies

By: David A. Kolman, Senior Editor


To help RoadKing readers stay ahead of the learning curve, following are listings and explanations of key technology terms, acronyms and systems influencing today’s and tomorrow’s transportation industry.

Infrastructure Technologies

Smart Work Zone Systems. Application of computers, communications and sensor technology to highway transportation to predict travel time, delay or speed, plus provide real-time information to motorists during incidents, temporary closures or any unexpected conditions. These systems are intended to better inform motorists, encourage them to take alternate routes, reduce their frustrations, decrease highway congestion and enhance safety for motorists and roadway workers.

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). Meant to improve traffic safety and mobility, tackle congestion problems, reduce air pollution and increase energy efficiency. This is being accomplished by applying sensor technologies, information flow and communications exchange to provide real-time information, involving all modes of passenger travel, freight transport and infrastructure, so road users and transportation system operators can make better decisions.

Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) Communications. Technology comprised of a wireless network using dedicated short-range communications, wherein vehicles exchange information with other vehicles in close proximity, including speed, location, direction of travel, braking and loss of stability.

Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) Communications. Also based on wireless communication technologies, V2I exchanges critical safety and operational data between vehicles and road infrastructure. The primary objective is to avoid or mitigate motor vehicle accidents and have vehicles travel in a collaborative, safe environment. 

Vehicle Technologies

SAE J3016. Standard developed by SAE International—a global association of engineers and related technical experts in the commercial-vehicle, automotive and aerospace industries—that defines the Six Levels of Driving Automation. SAE J3016 has been adopted by the U.S. DOT and NHTSA:

  • Level 0 – No Driving Automation. All actions of the vehicle are controlled by a human driver.
  • Level 1 – Driver Assistance. Vehicle has one or more assisted driving technologies—such as adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation and alerts—but still requires a human driver to make judgements and operate the vehicle.
  • Level 2 – Partial Driving Automation. Like Level 1, a Level 2 vehicle has two or more assisted driving technologies that work together simultaneously and under some circumstances are capable of self-driving. The driver is required to remain in complete control of the vehicle at all times.
  • Level 3 – Conditional Driving Automation. Vehicle takes full control of driving operation under certain conditions. A human driver is required to be ready to take back control at any time in case something does not go as intended.
  • Level 4 – High Driving Automation. Vehicle has full automation driving technology functionality in most conditions. However, under certain circumstances, human oversight is required.
  • Level 5 – Full Driving Automation. Vehicle has full automation technology and handles all the driving in all circumstances. The function of the driver is eliminated.

LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). Sensing technology like radar, also known as LiDAR, LIDAR and LADAR. A LiDAR system transmits a beam of light and measures the returning signal when the light reflects off an object. The time that this takes provides a direct measurement of the distance to the object. LiDAR systems enable autonomous vehicles to detect obstacles or other vehicles.

Over-the-Air (OTA) Programming. Technology that quickly, easily, securely and seamlessly connects trucks to software updates and service support via cellular networks to improve a truck’s efficiency, performance and productivity. Updates can include programmable parameters like transmission modes, maximum driving and cruise speeds, maximum engine speed and idle shutdown time. OTA programming eliminates the need for downtime because trucks don’t have to go into a shop for such updates.

Total Vehicle Lightweighting/Right-Weighting. Use of lighter materials for body, chassis, powertrain, interior components and under-the-hood applications. Along with exploring cost-effective alternatives and developing new assembly processes, the goal is to reduce overall vehicle weight, improve fuel economy, reduce emissions and meet the evolving demands of increasingly electrified vehicle platforms.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV). These use an onboard fuel cell that causes a chemical reaction, thereby transforming stored compressed hydrogen gas and oxygen from the air into electricity to power an electric motor. FCEVs have no tailpipe emissions as they only emit harmless water vapor and warm air.

Cow Power. Renewable compressed natural gas (R-CNG) derived from the anaerobic digestion of dairy cow and cattle manure. Like fossil-compressed natural gas, waste-derived R-CNG fleets can save on fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions relative to diesel fuel and gasoline.

Secure Vehicle Interface (SVI). Internationally standardized technical design that provides for secure and standardized access to the In-Vehicle Networks for access to operational, maintenance and driver behavioral data by the vehicle owners and automotive aftermarket.

In-Vehicle Networks (IVN). Also known as multiplexing, IVN is a method for transferring data among the numerous switches, sensors, motors, electronic modules and other electrical devices within a vehicle via a serial data bus. This communication link reduces the number of wires by combining signals on a single wire.

Information Technologies

Artificial Intelligence (AI). Broad science of mimicking human abilities wherein a machine or computer program thinks, acts and learns like humans.

Machine Learning (ML). Subset of AI that provides computers with the ability to automatically learn and act like humans, as well as improve their learning over time, in an autonomous fashion.

Blockchain Technology. Basically, a shared, decentralized digital ledger that simplifies the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network. Every business transaction, from start to finish, recorded one after the other, is an individual encrypted “block” linked together in a “chain.” Peer-to-peer consensus is used to verify and authenticate all information recorded within the ledger. Blockchain technology helps streamline the entire transportation process for the movement of goods involving trucks, trains, ships, planes, etc.

Digital Freight Matching (DFM). On-demand software solution, also referred to as, “Uber for Trucking,” that enables shippers to directly and quickly find truckers to transport their freight on the right types of trucks, on the dates and routes they need. Shippers receive competitive and transparent rates upfront and can track in-transit and delivery details, so they always know the status of their shipments.

Data Scientist. Someone who works with Big Data—a massive amount of both structured and unstructured data that is difficult to process—using traditional database and software technologies.

Data Analytics. Approach to extracting meaning and insights from raw data—unprocessed, collected computer data—and then analyzing, organizing and categorizing it to make sense of it. This information is used to uncover actionable insights to solve problems, improve operations, identify new opportunities, make better, faster decisions, etc.

Data Interoperability. Ability of different information systems, devices and applications to create, access, exchange, integrate and cooperatively use data in a coordinated manner within and across organizational, regional and national boundaries to provide timely and seamless portability of information.

Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID). Technology used to identify and track a unique object, using a radio frequency transmission to read and capture information stored on a tag attached to an object. It is hands-free data capture with no line-of-site required. RFID improves in-transit and asset visibility and timeliness and accuracy of shipping, receiving, storage and transportation. Uses include identifying vehicles when arriving at sites, tracking status and location of pallets and containers, checking if a tractor has hooked to the correct trailer and determining if a vehicle has gone to the correct loading-unloading bay or filling location.

5G Technology. Fifth-generation cellular wireless. A new standard for mobile telecommunications service, it will be an improvement over today’s 4G technology with increased speed, more responsiveness and the ability to connect more devices simultaneously.

Congratulations for reading to conclusion. Hopefully, you’ve been introduced to or at least increased your knowledge of the many new technologies that will be impacting your professional and personal lives in the coming years and decades. Whether actually introduced or in prototype stage, many of these technologies were recently on display at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show held in Atlanta, during late October 2019.

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