Trends and Challenges in Commercial Vehicle Communication


Seasoned operators often sense how their commercial vehicles are performing based on the sounds and vibrations the vehicles produce. Today, commercial vehicles can do that on their own via communications systems that monitor performance, position the vehicle, schedule maintenance, communicate with accessories, and even help drive the vehicle.

For example, communications modules in tractors and implements ensure that croplands are precisely planted and harvested. If there is an equipment problem, the dealer or operator can be alerted. Also, communications systems are a vital part of autonomous agricultural vehicles and can coordinate multiple autonomous vehicles working in tandem.

For construction and mining vehicles, communications systems have an added importance. Unlike, ag vehicles, which are used heavily for certain periods and then housed, construction and mining vehicles often operate 24/7, making diagnostic and communications systems that much more critical.

Elaborate safety systems are required on both ag and construction and mining vehicles. These systems typically include video cameras, displays, sensors and control systems that produce large volumes of high-speed data, requiring the use of high-speed connectors and cables capable of transmitting 5 to 10 Gbps of data. While some of these connectors handle data only, the trend is to use hybrid connectors that can handle both data and power.

Communications systems for heavy-duty vehicles typically must be ruggedized. For example, heavy-duty, off-highway applications usually require sealed USB interconnect systems with additional protection against increased vibration, shock, and fluid ingress—such as fully protected perimeter seals and wire seals rated to IP67 and IP69K.

Another challenge is specifying components. Ag vehicle manufacturers tend to follow ISO Bus communications standards, such as ISO 11783, and construction and mining vehicle manufacturers tend to follow SAE standards. In addition, commercial vehicle manufacturers use internal proprietary specifications, which make vehicles and equipment made by the same manufacturer interoperable but not capable of communicating with vehicles from other manufacturers.

A commercial vehicle communications network must be integrated based on system speed requirements, number of required ports, desired protocols, cable design, cable shielding levels, and connector attachments. That means connector suppliers must also be experts in systems design, working as a team with customers. Selecting the right interconnect scheme is critical—now and in the future.

By: Gregory LaMirand, global business development manager, Arnold Perry Tchiegne, industry marketing manager, and Dan Prescott, director, key accounts and industry marketing, Molex, LLC.

This blog is based on an article that appeared SAE Off-Highway Engineering