Tractor Trailer Communication at PACCAR ITD

PACCAR ECE 2017 Project
Written by Jerry Ross Senior Technology Engineer PACCAR ITD Technology Research
June 7, 2017

The ITD R&D (PACCAR's Information Technology Research and Development) department once again partnered with a student team from Seattle University. This partnership allows students to gain real-world project experience while making students aware of PACCAR as a potential employer.

The Seattle University School of Science and Engineering Project Center celebrated its 30th year during Projects day at Seattle University on June 2nd. The Project Center presented PACCAR with two awards for participating in a total of 53 projects since its inception.

This year’s team continued the Tractor to Trailer communication project started last year. The project’s purpose was to help the driver monitor the condition of the trailer and cargo in near real-time and to understand how to communicate information to the driver in a compliant, non-distracting manner. The system accomplishes this by gathering data from sensors and relaying that information to the driver through the built-in PACCAR display, or a tablet/smartphone. This project was pursued so that PACCAR will have a better understanding of how to handle the influx of data that will come from evolving in-vehicle Internet-of-Things (IoT) systems.

This year, the team focused on improving the implementation in several areas. These included improving Bluetooth communication, replacing simulated sensors with actual sensors, making the data hub more robust and maintainable, and improving and implementing additional features into the application used by the driver. Their overall goal was to integrate the system into a test vehicle.

Although the students didn’t reach their goal of installing the Android application onto a PACCAR display, they were able to demonstrate a working system with real temperature and door monitoring sensors, a data hub that processed the sensor data, and an Android application that queried the data hub to display sensor data in near real-time. The system also generated notifications to the driver when sensors reported data outside of driver-defined thresholds.

The students learned technical skills such as Python, SQL, and Android programming, working with Raspberry Pi hardware and software, Bluetooth communication, and integration of several components and technologies into an integrated system. They also gained experience working on a complex project as a team.

The team has made a few recommendations for improvement. They recommend enhancing the Android application to allow adding sensors without requiring code changes. The data hub should also be modified to allow multiple simultaneous Bluetooth connections from a tablet, smartphone, and PACCAR display. Finally, the data hub performance could be improved by replacing communication that goes through the SQL database with in-memory, inter-process communication.