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PACCAR Says New Connected Truck Platform Is Part of Its Digital Transformation

As it turns out, the connected car of the future may also be a truck. Big rig manufacturer PACCAR has taken another step in its digital transformation by launching a global connected truck platform that will be fitted into the Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF brands.

The PACCAR Connect system consists of proprietary hardware and software that will simplify customers’ fleet management operations, the company reported on Tuesday (Oct. 26) during an earnings call. PACCAR began installing PACCAR Connect on DAF XF, XG and XG+ trucks in October.

“Customers will benefit from the system’s enhanced truck data security, advanced over-the-air software updates, elimination of the need for third-party hardware modules and an open platform that supports existing fleet management systems,” PACCAR CEO R. Preston Feight told investors and analysts during the call. “PACCAR’s new, proprietary Connect system increases customer value, increases PACCAR’s recurring revenue and is part of [our] digital transformation.”

Semiconductor Shortage Is Reducing Truck Deliveries

In other news, PACCAR reported that, like other manufacturers, it has been affected by the ongoing industry-wide shortage of semiconductors. The shortage reduced its truck deliveries by approximately 7,000 vehicles in the third quarter, with Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF delivering 32,800 trucks.

“I think our teams are doing a fantastic job of hustling, as you put it,” Feight said to an analyst who asked about the supply chain situation. “They are reengineering different chips, they are taking places where maybe two chips were required and reengineering them to require only one chip, and we’re working with semiconductor manufacturers themselves in our second, third and fourth tier to come up with good solutions that are robust and high-quality.”

Autonomous Freight-Hauling Exercise Is Going Well

The company also provided an update on its autonomous truck projects. In September, PACCAR teamed up with Aurora and FedEx to launch a commercial pilot of autonomous trucks hauling freight in a 500-mile round trip between Dallas and Houston. The trucks operate autonomously with a backup driver.

“It’s the first time we’ve been participating in an actual freight-hauling exercise — we’ve got lots of trucks running around with different autonomous startups — and that’s going well,” Feight said. “But it’s pretty early days, and I think any prediction for how quick that market is going to develop will depend on how robust the technology becomes, and that’s what we’re learning about right now. So, I think we should just be patient to see how quickly it develops and when it’s ready to scale.”

This is part of PACCAR’s strategic partnership with Aurora to develop, test and commercialize autonomous Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks. Peterbilt 579 and Kenworth T680 trucks utilizing Aurora self-driving technologies are expected to be delivered in the next several years.

“As these trucks become mature, they will be very safe, and it will bring an efficiency to freight that’s a huge impact on the country and the world, and so we’re looking forward to being leaders with that effort and are in that position right now,” Feight said. “I think it’s hard to quantify those values, but you can intuitively understand how it can be safer and more efficient, and good for the operating environment.”

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