Volvo, Mack will let truckers schedule over-the-air updates

Truck instrument cluster

Editor’s Note: CLARIFIES final paragraph to show Navistar drivers can activate over-the-air updates once approved by a fleet manager.

Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) and its Mack Trucks sibling later this year will allow drivers to activate over-the-air (OTA) updates for a range of truck functions, bypassing fleet managers and coordination with manufacturers.

Beginning in the fourth quarter of 2020, performance enhancements of a truck’s engine, transmission and diesel aftertreatment will be available around the clock based on when a driver schedules the update. Parameter settings include setting the maximum road speed and shifting the engine into economy or performance mode. 

Remote updates delivered via cellular service address the industry’s pursuit of greater uptime by reducing the number of hours a truck is out of service for repairs.

“There’s a direct connection between keeping a truck updated with the latest software and reducing fault codes, in addition to the truck running more efficiently, improving the environmental footprint and reducing operational costs,” said Conal Deedy, VTNA director of commercial telematics solutions.

Next evolution

Driver-activated software updates are the next evolution of over-the-air updates, said David Pardue, Mack vice president of connected vehicle and contract services, adding that most updates can be completed in less than 15 minutes.

“Parameters can be set as long as the key is in the ignition and the truck is parked, so the customer dictates timing,” Pardue said.

Mack Over The Air relies on its integrated telematics system GuardDog Connect for computer reprogramming and setting vehicle parameters.

Volvo said its Driver Display Activation will flash an icon on the instrument cluster screen when parameters or software updates are available. At the next planned stop, the driver can activate the update 50% faster than a dispatcher and be back on the road within minutes, according to Ash Makki, VTNA program manager.

Mack sells packages of 50 updates for use over 12 months for 2018 model year and newer trucks. Customers previously were limited to just two parameter updates per year as part of their Uptime contract subscription.

The Volvo Group (OTC: VLVLY) brands appear to be the first of the major truck manufacturers to put control of over-the-air updates in the hands of drivers.

What competitors do

Daimler Trucks North America, a subsidiary of Daimler AG (OTC: DDAIF), has offered its fleet manager-controlled Detroit Connect Road Updates of Freightliner products for two years. In addition to road speed, it allows updating cruise speed and idle shutdown by time and temperature.

Freightliner fleet managers also can access driver behavior metrics and vehicle performance, such as fuel economy, time spent in top gear and time spent in cruise control. 

PACCAR Inc. (NASDAQ: PCAR), parent of Peterbilt Motors and Kenworth Truck Co., is keeping tight control of OTA updates for the foreseeable future, spokesman Tim Olson said. 

“An over-the-air software update must be initiated by an administrator in the PACCAR Solutions Portal,” he said. “Once initiated in the portal, the mobile app is then used to complete the update. Drivers typically don’t have access to this unless they are an owner-operator.”

PACCAR only recently added over-the-air update capability after working through cybersecurity concerns.

Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV), which offers OTA updates on its International LT and RH Series models equipped with the A26 engine, allows drivers to activate updates on the vehicle dashboard once a fleet manager approves them.