Paccar sets up shop in Silicon Valley

SUNNYVALE, Calif. – Paccar has opened an Innovation Center in Silicon Valley, becoming the first truck manufacturer to create a permanent presence there.

It has resulted in increased engagement with tech start-ups and created an environment that fosters innovation, according to company officials who took the trucking press on a tour of the facility. Paccar has engaged about 125 start-ups in discussions since November.

The Innovation Center is 26,000 sq.-ft. with space for 50 employees. It features collaborative workspaces, a presentation hall, a Paccar experience center, and five bays – four of them truck-sized.

“It supports all truck divisions and other divisions within Paccar, including parts distribution and financial services,” said Jake Montero, general manager of the Paccar Innovation Center.

The location is also key. Montero noted all automotive companies and many Tier 1 suppliers and technology companies have facilities in Silicon Valley.

“There’s no better place to be close to these technology companies than in the Valley,” he said. “Part of being here is to be an active member of the Silicon Valley ecosystem, being connected to companies in the area and to participate in industry events.”

One partnership Paccar has struck up is with Stanford University’s automotive center. Early areas of focus at the new facility include: advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS); advanced powertrains; machine learning; and vehicle connectivity. Paccar has developed a roadmap for rolling out these technologies.

The ADAS roadmap will see stop-and-go traffic assistance launched this year, with lane-keeping and platooning trials to begin next year and object detection in 2020. By 2021, Paccar will be providing driver state monitoring, featuring inward-looking sensors that can identify distracted driving or driver fatigue.

Over the next four years, Paccar will also be developing Level 4 ADAS technologies, utilizing camera, radar and lidar.

In terms of connectivity, Montero said Paccar now has more than 150,000 trucks connected worldwide through its SmartLinq remote diagnostics platform. This year it will roll out business intelligence tools, providing data analytics and over-the-air updates. In 2019, Paccar intends to provide predictive maintenance, followed by an advanced fleet management system including route optimization in 2020 and dynamic vehicle mapping and vehicle-to-vehicle communications in 2021 and beyond.

Asked to expand on the work Paccar is doing with truck platooning, Scott Newhouse, Peterbilt chief engineer, said customer trials next year will help fleets evaluate the technology and determine if there’s a payback.

“Part of the work we are doing with customers is to make sure we can understand the business case,” Newhouse said. “If you step back, some of the biggest opportunities are when you go across fleets and not just intra-fleet. The reality of that happening in a very short period of time is what we’re trying to validate.”

A 3D printer produces Paccar parts.

Technologies explored at the Innovation Center are analyzed and quickly put into prototype vehicles, where they’re further evaluated for real-world use. They’re then handed over to the truck manufacturers for integration with the vehicle, supported by the Innovation Center.

The driver interface is another feature that will likely see improvements thanks to work being done at the Innovation Center.

“We’re always trying to provide technology for the driver to keep their hands on the wheel,” Newhouse said. This could include voice commands or automatically displaying to the driver the information they require, when they need it.

“We want to display the exact amount of information the driver needs to see when they need to see it. Nothing more and nothing less,” said Jason Skoog, Paccar vice-president and general manager of Peterbilt. “That additional distraction of having to toggle through various menus to get what you need or want, it’s better to have a proactive display.”

(L-R) Jake Montero, Scott Newhouse and Jason Skoog are pictured at the new Paccar Innovation Center.
James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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