Detroit expands telematics offerings with launch of Detroit Connect, integrated tablet

Truck News

DETROIT, Mich. — Detroit Diesel Corp. has taken a huge leap forward with its telematics capabilities, launching Detroit Connect, bundling its existing telematics programs and bringing to market a fully-integrated tablet.

Detroit Connect combines the company’s Virtual Technician remote diagnostics program, Visibility Fleet Software and a new rugged tablet with seven-inch display. The tablet is manufactured by Zonar and sits in a custom-made cradle on the dash. It will be offered beginning in January in the Freightliner Cascadia, with other Daimler truck models to follow.

Detroit Connect’s Joe Saccio said the on-board tablet will come loaded with apps that provide: two-way messaging; truck-specific navigation; electronic hours-of-service logging; and inspection reports. With the exception of the navigation app and incoming text-to-vice messaging, all other functions are disabled while the truck is in motion, to reduce the potential for distraction.

Because it’s integrated into the truck, voice messages and GPS directions can be played through the truck’s audio system. There are other benefits to being fully integrated as well, Saccio said.

“Our engineers have worked on the installation side of this,” he said. “You’re not cutting up wiring harnesses, there’s no splicing involved. This thing is plug-and-play.”

The tablet is an Android-based device, and eventually Detroit Connect will offer third-party apps that will be available from an app store powered by Zonar. The touch screen can be navigated when wearing gloves or while wet. It features a five-megapixel camera, a built-in flashlight and RFID readers.

An inspection app allows the fleet owner or maintenance manager to ensure proper pre-trip inspections are being done, by placing RFID tags at strategic locations on the vehicle. The driver must then scan each of the tags with the tablet to reveal a checklist of items to inspect on that area of the truck. This allows fleet managers to determine how long the pre-trip inspection took to complete.

If a defect is found, the driver can snap a photo and send it to dispatch or to the shop.

Saccio said it’s the hours-of-service app that will “really drive this into the market.” It’s currently configured for the US rules, but the Canadian hours-of-service will be added before the tablet goes to market in January, Saccio said. Drivers can easily remove the tablet from its cradle to show inspection officers their logs. If a printout is required, they can be uploaded to a memory stick using the USB drive and then exported to an Excel spreadsheet or other format.

The GPS app allows a driver to input his load and equipment type and receive the best directions to his destination.

Detroit Connect will be bundling Virtual Technician, Visibility Fleet Software and the tablet and offering the service for a yet-to-be-determined subscription fee. David Hames, general manager, marketing and strategy with Daimler Trucks North America, said pricing will be competitive with existing offerings that provide similar services.

“This is going to be the platform that enables us to move into a new space,” said Hames.

Detroit has an exclusive deal with Zonar, and will be the only OEM offering the tablet via factory installation. However, Zonar’s expected to sell the tablet as an all-makes retrofit at some point in the future.

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