Over the past few years, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) has developed a “co-creation” process as part of its product development cycles, most notably in its electric vehicle development. In 2018, DTNA announced the formation of an Electric Vehicle Council aimed at sharing knowledge with other customers and stakeholders. It struck up a partnership with Penske and NFI to test electric vehicles, recently expanded to include 14 additional customers in the process and has been working to develop e-consulting services to assist customers with route assessment, safety, fleet management and economic feasibility of electric vehicles.
That co-creation process is now infiltrating all aspects of the DTNA customer journey — the latest example is its recent announcement with Platform Science that it will install that company’s technology on Freightliner vehicles as they roll off the factory floor.
“Co-creation is a central tenet of DTNA’s approach to bringing purposeful innovations to market. In order to deliver a robust and user-friendly solution, DTNA and Platform Science are working on this effort to transform the customer experience,” Sanjiv Khurana , general manager of digital vehicle solutions for DTNA, told FreightWaves.
Platform Science’s technology allows for the development, download and inclusion of custom-built apps or third-party-built apps. Users, in this case Freightliner truck owners and operators, will be able to install a wide variety of technologies — from tablets to telematics to individual technology from third-party vendors — onto the vehicle without the need to take the vehicle and driver out of service for hardware and wiring installation.
“Our partnership with Platform Science will bring a groundbreaking connectivity experience to our customers,” Khurana said. “By leveraging Platform Science’s transportation-specific Remote Platform Management, customers will be able to choose the solutions to fit their mixed fleet needs and seamlessly integrate those solutions into their trucks.”
Daimler has also made an investment in Platform Science through a Series B funding round.
Khurana said DTNA will include built-in Platform Science software on the company’s hardware, which will eliminate delays and costs associated with installing devices, cables and antennas as aftermarket devices.
“The integration of Platform Science’s technology provides a seamless customer experience by including an end-to-end solution and maximum visibility with minimal complexity,” he said. “Drivers will simply need to bring an authorized mobile device and log into their new vehicles’ DTNA onboard telematics system.”
The idea of installing this type of platform at the factory level is not necessarily new — Ford, General Motors, Toyota and others have done so on automotive and light-duty-truck platforms — but most previous options are tied to specific technology platforms and not an open-architecture platform. In this case, DTNA and Platform Science are opening up the truck to nearly any technology solution provider
Among the fleet management solutions that will be available in the Daimler-Platform Science partnership are apps associated with electronic logging systems, workflows, driver inspections, weigh station bypass, and navigation options, as well as additional fleet-specific apps. The entire system will appear on vehicles starting in 2021.
“If you are a customer, this is [like] basic cable,” Jack Kennedy, founder and CEO of Platform Science, explained to FreightWaves. “You get a cable box, and now because you have a cable box, you have the ability to add channels that are [important] to you. If you are an app developer, this is the typical smartphone application marketplace experience.
Khurana said the partnership will open Freightliner vehicles up to technology from a range of software providers, all available through a single telematics-enabled platform. Kennedy explained that fleets will be able to leverage additional Detroit Connect insights in order to enable greater driver performance, vehicle optimization and overall safety.
For the DTNA customer, Kennedy said the factory installation will lead to lower technology costs.
“Our industry has been characterized by very high [switching costs],” he said. “Having a platform with only your apps on it is not super exciting as a story unless you have the best apps on it and always will. But having the ability to put any app on the platform makes it easy for the customer to choose and easy to use [the best available technology].”
Shaleen Devgun, chief information officer for Schneider National (NYSE: SNDR), an early adopter of the Platform Science platform and a Freightliner customer, said the inclusion of the technology at the factory will speed development of new productivity technologies.
“It’s a huge accelerator. It’s an accelerator on which you can ramp up the speed to value,” Devgun said. “The speed to value [is critical] in an agile world where customers are demanding instant gratification.”
That speed is what is important to customers, and for DTNA, it is a key part of creating value-added services for truck buyers.
“The inclusion of Platform Science in our connected telematics platform represents a leap forward for the industry, and more importantly, our customers,” said Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of DTNA. “The demand and the need for efficiency, safety and uptime has never been greater than it is today.”
Khurana said the decision to install the Platform Science platform at the factory was not made lightly.
“DTNA executes a thorough market and product analysis to select connectivity hardware and software partners,” he said. “This includes commercial vehicle technology evaluation, lead technology, strategic company fit and firsthand customer feedback.”
In other words, the decision is part of the overall co-creation process to provide value beyond the vehicle itself.