In 2020, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) announced it would embed Platform Science’s technology into vehicles at the factory level, a major advancement in the ability of fleets to reduce costs associated with the expensive installation of hardware to manage telematics and fleet- and driver-specific apps.
The two companies announced on Tuesday they are taking their relationship to the next level, with Virtual Vehicle — an open-access digital experience that allows fleets to easily install the software and apps of their choosing, without regard to hardware limitations.
“With Virtual Vehicle, we offer our customers an open digital solutions and services platform that allows them to choose fleet applications that best meet their needs,” said Sanjiv Khurana, head of the connected services group at DTNA. “The system is seamlessly enabled in our trucks, without the need for installing any additional telematics hardware, or the associated costs and loss of uptime. Through our collaboration with Platform Science, we are building on the strong connectivity already integrated into our trucks, and offering unprecedented flexibility, efficiency and scalability.”
Platform Science technology allows for the development, download and inclusion of custom-built apps or third-party-built apps on the truck without the need to run additional wiring or pull the truck out of service to install hardware. Virtual Vehicle’s open platform design enables users to access telematics, software solutions, real-time vehicle data and third-party applications directly from the vehicle. Significantly, the platform also provides the tools necessary to manage these applications, including connectivity and the mobile devices drivers use to access them.
“Before Virtual Vehicle, OEMs, enterprise fleets and developers were restricted in their ability to innovate because hardware and software were so interconnected. It was difficult to change one without impacting the other,” said Jack Kennedy, co-founder and CEO of Platform Science. “Virtual Vehicle finally unlocks that. Fleets can now choose software anytime they want, without the inconvenience and wasted investment in hardware that customers have historically had to deal with just to get new apps. We are thrilled to partner with DTNA and support them on this journey to make customers’ lives easier and easier as the world innovates faster and faster.”
Fleets utilizing the platform, which is available now on Freightliner Cascadia models manufactured after Sept. 9, 2019, can choose from third-party apps, mix and match telematics service provider applications, or allow drivers to bring their own devices.
Platform Science said Virtual Vehicle represents the first time fleets will be able to customize their in-vehicle experiences on an app-by-app and driver-by-driver basis. It also allows for the management of mobile devices even as they change within the cab without the need to install or change on-vehicle mobile gateways or telematics units.
A developer toolkit allows third-party developers to create custom apps for drivers or fleets. Virtual Vehicle leverages edge, cloud and in-dash data to optimize networks and ensure data is available 24 hours a day, even when the vehicle is offline.
Virtual Vehicle offers usage-based billing and is available through a monthly subscription.
In an interview with FreightWaves in 2020, Khurana previewed how DTNA envisioned connectivity expanding under the agreement with Platform Science.
“Our partnership with Platform Science will bring a groundbreaking connectivity experience to our customers,” he 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.”
Platform Science has built its technology on the concept of open source, believing that fleets need the tools to innovate, not defined solutions. Shaleen Devgun, executive vice president and chief information officer for Schneider, which is both a Platform Science user and DTNA customer, told FreightWaves in 2020 that the approach is ideal for his fleet, which wants to create solutions that meet driver and fleet needs, but that may not be standardized across a large corporation like Schneider with many divisions.
“We’ve been on their platform for a while,” he said. “We’re happy to say we were one of their earlier customers and we’ve worked on the product. … The Platform Science approach to this whole piece has been very unique. That’s what attracted us to this. The fact is, no one before Platform Science stepped back and said the real value is taking pieces from across this value chain and connecting them with other pieces and bringing them together. This whole process was unique and is still unique.”