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    Revolutionizing Commercial Vehicles with Intelligent Driving: The Future is Here!

    Jul 10, 2024

    New Energy Observer When it comes to autonomous driving, we often think of passenger cars, because they are right around us. In fact, in the commercial vehicle field, the demand for autonomous driving is more urgent, more realistic, and more commercially valuable. Data shows that there are over 21 million truck drivers in China, with an average age of over 40. The lack of drivers born in the 1990s may create a gap of millions of drivers in the next decade. Advanced intelligent driving, or even autonomous driving, may be able to address the urgent needs of commercial vehicles in terms of ensuring driving safety. Commercial vehicles, especially heavy trucks, usually have a higher accident rate than ordinary passenger cars. According to statistics from the traffic management department, the accident rate for trucks has reached 32.04%, despite trucks accounting for only 10% of all motor vehicles. Accidents involving heavy trucks account for over 30% of accidents causing more than three deaths at a time. The fatality rate of traffic accidents involving heavy trucks has reached 58%. Especially on highways, the proportion of fatal accidents involving freight vehicles is higher. According to data released by the Taizhou Highway Traffic Police Detachment in Zhejiang, highway truck fatalities account for 68.6% of all fatalities. In other words, 7 out of 10 fatalities involve trucks. The main reasons for the high accident rate of large trucks are twofold: the difficulty in controlling the vehicles, which can easily lead to loss of control if the driver relaxes vigilance, and insufficient safety awareness among drivers, leading to situations such as fatigue driving, speeding, and violation of traffic rules. Predictions suggest that the accident rate of commercial vehicles, especially large trucks, will significantly decrease, mainly due to the gradual popularization of intelligent autonomous driving systems in commercial vehicles. Looking ahead to the future of autonomous driving in commercial vehicles, we can foresee a future full of opportunities and challenges. With the advancement of technology and the improvement of regulations, autonomous driving will reshape the commercial vehicle industry in multiple ways. 1. The 26-hour limit for truck drivers Box truck driver Lao Tu is a staunch supporter of autonomous driving because he has suffered from the hardships of freight transport. After delivering goods in Sichuan and waiting for a day and night, Lao Tu finally received an order to return to Shenzhen. The navigation system showed that the unloading site from Sichuan to Shenzhen is 1659 kilometers in total. If the highway is smooth all the way, it will take 21 hours and 11 minutes without stopping. The shipper only gave a time limit of 26 hours. However, long-distance driving without stopping is impossible. Commercial vehicles have fatigue driving alarms and must rest for at least 20 minutes every 4 hours. In addition to refueling, adding water, and eating, considering traffic jams, time is very tight. The highways in Sichuan have many slopes and curves. Lao Tu drove for more than 7 hours overnight, finally leaving Sichuan, entering Guizhou, then Guangxi, and finally Guangdong. When he was 127 kilometers away from the unloading site in Zhaoqing, Guangdong, Lao Tu couldn’t hold on any longer. He rushed into the service area, intending to take a nap for 20 minutes, but ended up sleeping for over half an hour. Lao Tu, with sleepy eyes, started sprinting. He silently prayed that the remaining journey wouldn’t encounter traffic jams. Finally, he successfully exited the highway from Luotian. Fortunately, the unloading site was not far from the highway exit. When he arrived, he was only a few minutes ahead of the time limit, almost reaching the deadline. Throughout the journey, Lao Tu hardly got out of the vehicle, which exhausted him. In fact, the pain points of commercial vehicles make experienced drivers suffer. Looking at the entire commercial vehicle industry, there are over 20 million drivers like Lao Tu in our country, enduring long-distance journeys. Some of them hold the steering wheel for nearly 20 hours a day, running on the highway with tired eyes, and even dozing off while driving. Accidents caused by fatigue driving of heavy trucks are not uncommon. For a long time, the high operating costs, low efficiency, and poor safety of commercial vehicles have been criticized. Through the real story of Lao Tu, let’s imagine how much easier it would be if their vehicles had advanced intelligent assistance systems. Commercial vehicles are in urgent need of intelligent driving technology. The application of intelligent driving technology in the field of commercial vehicles not only represents technological progress but also improves transportation efficiency, ensures driving safety, reduces environmental pollution, enhances driver conditions, and lowers operating costs. Firstly, intelligent driving can greatly improve transportation efficiency. By analyzing real-time traffic information, the intelligent driving system of commercial vehicles can choose the optimal route, avoid congestion, and shorten transportation time. For example, the collaboration between Volvo Trucks and the US startup TuSimple, using autonomous trucks for long-distance freight transportation, has significantly improved transportation efficiency. Secondly, according to statistics from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 94% of traffic accidents are caused by human errors. Intelligent driving is better at ensuring driving safety than manual driving. Through sensors, radar, cameras, and other devices, intelligent driving technology can monitor the surrounding environment comprehensively, identify potential dangers in a timely manner, such as sudden deceleration of vehicles ahead, pedestrians crossing the road, and react quickly to effectively prevent or reduce accidents. Furthermore, intelligent driving systems can more accurately control the vehicle’s operating status, such as controlling speed reasonably, reducing sudden acceleration and braking, which helps reduce fuel consumption and emissions, and has a positive impact on environmental protection. For example, Daimler’s Freightliner Cascadia autonomous truck has achieved lower carbon emissions than traditional trucks through optimized driving strategies. Additionally, another significant benefit that intelligent driving brings to drivers is greatly improving their working conditions, freeing them from the burden of fatigue driving. For example, drivers like Lao Tu, who take long-distance orders of over 1600 kilometers, almost drive continuously without rest, leading to high mental stress, red eyes, and physical exhaustion. If Lao Tu’s vehicle had intelligent driving, it could partially free him from such conditions, allowing him to relax his nerves during driving and have more rest and relaxation time. Facing the aging workforce issue, intelligent driving technology can fill the shortage of drivers, ensuring smooth operation of the logistics chain, promoting industrial upgrading and green development, significantly reducing carbon emissions during commercial vehicle operations, and driving the development of green transportation. The immediate question arises: if intelligent driving is so good, and everyone understands that it can improve efficiency, reduce costs, ensure safety, and free drivers, then why aren’t we using intelligent driving systems in our commercial vehicles? Can we enjoy the benefits that intelligent driving brings to commercial vehicles at this stage? When will the automatic driving of commercial vehicles truly land after discussing the necessity, let’s explore the feasibility of applying intelligent driving technology in the field of commercial vehicles? There are many factors constraining intelligent driving, focusing on the field of commercial vehicles, the completeness of intelligent driving hardware and software, and the electrification process must be at the forefront. In terms of hardware and software, there is no difference between commercial vehicles and passenger cars. If there is a difference, it is only that passenger cars may use fewer sensors and radars, while commercial vehicles are larger, with these sensors and radars distributed more widely, and the computing power of the core processor is slightly stronger. Looking at the process of intelligent driving in passenger cars, it starts with high-speed NOA, then urban NOA, while the main activity scene of commercial vehicles is high-speed, naturally approaching maturity. With the improvement of sensor accuracy, algorithm optimization, and the enhancement of computing power, advanced intelligent driving technology is becoming more mature, costs are gradually decreasing, and the commercialization threshold is gradually lowering. In this way, the key to restricting the intelligent driving of commercial vehicles is the electrification challenge. According to Cui Dongshu, Secretary General of the China Passenger Car Association, in the first four months of this year, the penetration rate of new energy commercial vehicles in China was 14%, with a penetration rate of 16% in April alone. Compared with the 11% penetration rate in 2023 and the 9% penetration rate in 2022, the growth momentum is positive. However, compared with new energy passenger cars during the same period, it is at least 30 percentage points behind.

    Revolutionizing Commercial Vehicles with Intelligent Driving: The Future is Here!

    Commercial vehicles, especially large trucks and buses, face the problem of long charging times when transitioning to electrification. Unlike refueling a gasoline vehicle in minutes, electric vehicles often require hours to charge, posing a major obstacle for the logistics and transportation industry that requires efficient operations. The high cost of battery replacement and maintenance also hinders industry development. Recently, the “barrier” in the logistics and transportation industry has been broken. CATL’s “Tianxing” commercial vehicle batteries, perfected over more than a decade, have introduced two light commercial vehicle power battery products, Tianxing L – Supercharge version and Long Range version. The Tianxing L – Supercharge version can replenish 60% SOC in 12 minutes, allowing commercial vehicle drivers to set off with peace of mind during their 20-minute break, instead of wasting 1-2 hours on charging. The Long Range version increases the actual range of commercial vehicles to 500 kilometers, eliminating the need for mid-journey recharging for a trip from Beijing to Jinan, which is around 450 kilometers one way, increasing operational efficiency. Undoubtedly, they directly address the two major pain points of commercial vehicles – recharging speed and range, maximizing time utilization and profits for millions of truck drivers. Chinese workers have never shied away from difficulties and challenges, always embodying the spirit of hard work and believing in exchanging hard work for a comfortable life. But if they work hard and end up losing money instead of making a profit, that is clearly not what they want to see. Therefore, a powerful commercial vehicle will definitely empower drivers to strive for success.

    “Electricity” is definitely more cost-effective than “fuel,” but if it delays delivery time or leaves people stranded on the road, or requires a huge investment in battery replacement after just a few years, or is even unsafe, that is absolutely unacceptable. This means that whoever can use a set of tactics to eliminate all the “enemies” of commercial vehicles with batteries will receive the approval of 20 million drivers. It is reported that CATL’s Tianxing L series products are currently installed in 21 models from 13 car companies including Foton, Geely, Dongfeng, JAC, Weichai, Jiefang, Changan Kaicheng, Lingzhi Motors, Qingling, Ruichi, Shaanxi Auto, Xinyuan, SAIC Yuexin. Actions speak louder than words. Many obstacles to intelligent driving in commercial vehicles have been eliminated. Several industry leaders had already stated at the beginning of the year that 2024 will be the year of autonomous driving, especially with the accelerated entry of Tesla’s FSD into China, this view has become more “mainstream.” Now, with the strong support of “Tianxing,” intelligent driving in commercial vehicles, and even autonomous driving, will definitely enter the fast lane. The “year of autonomy” has arrived, and the future looks promising.