Paccar Reveals New and Future Tech at CES 2018

For Paccar's first-ever presence at the influential Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the company joined the show groove by displaying a Peterbilt 579 model modified for SAE Level 4 autonomous driving capability. (image: Paccar)

Although 2018 marked its first-ever presence at the enormously influential Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Paccar made sure it fit right in with the show’s technology- and transportation-sector veterans by unveiling a pair of big-rig demonstrators that show the way the multi-faceted OEM plans to address expanding interest in autonomous driving and more environmentally-conscious operations.

Kenworth R&D Manager Brian Lindgren at the rainy CES showing of the company's fuel cell-powered T680 day cab that has 150 miles of electric driving range and zero emissions. (image: Bill Visnic)

Some CES visitors may have thought it incongruous to see tractor-trailer rigs touting their high-technology credentials, but this year’s show in fact was bursting with commercial and off-highway vehicles, service companies and other affiliated businesses as it becomes increasingly apparent that many autonomy innovations, in particular, may be first deployed in commercial environments.

Peterbilt autonomous development tractor

Based on Peterbilt’s 579 model, an aerodynamics-optimized on-highway platform, the autonomous development tractor incorporates a phalanx of cameras and radars and lidar sensors to deliver the potential for extended hands-off driving.

“Our main focus is on [SAE] Level 4 ADAS [advanced driver-assistance systems] trucks,” Wesley Slavin, Peterbilt’s marketing manager, On-Highway, told Truck & Off-Highway Engineering during CES 2018. “Our expectation is to still have an active driver in the seat, but to give the driver a reasonable amount of break time,” he added.

Peterbilt is convinced Level 4 autonomy is ideal for over-the-road trucking, Slavin said, because it can reduce the burden of operating a vehicle for extended periods—but perhaps equally important, Level 4 autonomy has the potential to significantly decrease vehicle downtime, as the truck can continue traveling while the driver rests. Level 4 autonomy will mean regulators will be faced with examining and potentially modifying current laws regarding mandated driver rest periods—including the definition of what constitutes “rest,” Slavin said.

“When regulators and the environment adjust, we’ll be ready to go,” he said.

Peterbilt’s autonomous development tractor features a sensor suite of three Velodyne lidar sensors—one in the middle of the windshield’s “visor” and one on each side mirror—three forward-looking cameras, a camera on either side of the rig, two side-looking radar sensors and front-facing radar.

Collating the input from the 11 sensors is an Nvidia P2 processor. Another critical part of the hardware equation is a ZF-supplied ReAX torque-overlay electric steering assist. Slavin said Peterbilt did all the hardware-integration work internally at its laboratory in Denton, Texas.

For now, the company intends to use the vehicle strictly as a demonstrator, but Nvidia intends to test it, Slavin added.

The next phase for Peterbilt will be to leverage the development of the autonomous demonstrator to provide new ADAS functions, such as accident-avoidance and lane-centering capability, for production models. But an on-the-road pilot program for Level 4 autonomy is “probably a couple years out,” according to Slavin.

“I think the technology [for Level 4 capability] is there,” he added. “There are some algorithms and scenarios to work through. Our goal is to make sure the operator is safe—but everybody around is safe, too.”

“Technology is reshaping the commercial vehicle industry, and we have to be sure Peterbilt is on the front line of those developments,” said Kyle Quinn, General Manager, Peterbilt Motors Company, in a statement. “CES is a melting pot of companies making breakthroughs and pushing the envelope in a wide variety of industries, trucking included. This opportunity to showcase Peterbilt’s work is exciting.”

Kenworth zero-emission T680

Paccar’s Kenworth unit displayed at CES 2018 an electrically-driven T680 day cab developed and built to take part in the Zero Emission Cargo Transport (ZECT) demonstration project managed through Southern California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). Electricity is derived from a fuel cell supplied with compressed hydrogen from onboard storage tanks—and there are no direct noxious emissions.

The truck’s dual-rotor traction motor develops 565 hp, making the truck capable of carrying the legal GCWR of a Class 8 tractor. Brian Lindgren, Kenworth’s R&D Manager, told TOHE that the Ballard-made fuel cell generates up to 85 kW and its fully-charged 100-kW·h lithium-ion battery pack has enough charged capacity for about 30 mi (48 km) of driving range. After that, the fuel cell begins supplying electricity for tractive drive and to recharge the battery pack if load permits.

Ballard-made fuel cell for the electric Kenworth T680 generates 85 kW. (image: Bill Visnic)
Well-integrated into the space behind the driver's compartment are the electric T680's hydrogen storage tanks, holding enough H2 for an approximate 150-mile driving range. (image: Bill Visnic)

With a full load of hydrogen, total driving range is about 150 mi (240 km), Kenworth said, “making it ideal for short-haul and port operations.”

Lindgren told TOHE the fuel-cell truck will go into service late in the first quarter of 2018 in real-world drayage testing with Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI) at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in southern California. A follow-on project, he added, will involve another four vehicles—and Kenworth is working on a second project to develop a T680 day cab using a near-zero-emissions natural gas engine and generator to extend the battery range.

“We don’t know what powertrain’s going to ‘win’ for developing electricity,” said Lindgren, who said the fuel-cell powertrain, including batteries, weighs roughly 7000 lb (3175 kg) more than the standard T680 day cab model.

“Our testing shows that this truck performs equally as well, if not better than, current diesel trucks on the market,” said Stephan Olsen, Kenworth director of product planning, in a statement. “There is a lot of promise, and we see the day where Kenworth’s zero and near-zero emission trucks could be a common sight in regional operations. Kenworth is heavily focused on the evaluation and development of both zero and near-zero emission solutions for the trucking industry.”

Lindgren said Kenworth is particularly interested in using the demonstration program to study the coupling of electrification with ancillaries such as steering and braking, which use systems that traditionally rely on power from the truck’s combustion engine. Both the power steering and brake air compressor for the fuel-cell demonstration trucks are electrified.

“We think this [zero-emissions capability] is going to be a necessity in California,” said Lindgren, “and applicable elsewhere.” California has a longstanding initiative to improve air quality around its heavily-congested ports; development for Kenworth’s fuel-cell truck was supported by $2.8 million in funding under a larger grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), with SCAQMD being the prime applicant, Kenworth said.

Apart from the demonstration projects, “Right now, we don’t have any firm production plans,” said Lindgren, who said the company is examining the possibilities for limited-quantity series production in 2021-22.