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Five Communications Trends and Challenges for Commercial Vehicles
Commercial vehicle manufacturers are using more blade-and-receptacle connectors, such as this MX123 sealed connection system from Molex. It is designed for high-vibration, under-the-hood powertrain applications while still maintaining a small packaging size.
5 Communications Challenges & Trends for Commercial Vehicles

There are numerous electronic components involved with commercial vehicle communications systems. Here are five communication trends and challenges as identified by Molex, LLC for commercial vehicles in 2016, focusing specifically on two critical heavy-duty applications: agricultural and construction/mining vehicles.

1. Commercial vehicle communications scenarios

  • Communications modules in tractors and implements ensure that croplands are precisely planted and harvested with greater efficiency by regulating distribution of fertilizer and seed, improving cultivation and crop yields.
  • Issues are automatically alerted via wireless communication, depending on the severity.  This helps improve farming productivity because it decreases downtime in agricultural vehicles.
  • Many construction and mining vehicles operate nearly 24/7 for indefinite periods, making maintenance diagnostics and communications systems that much more critical.

2. Free-flowing data

  • Communications systems require high-speed connectors and cables that can transmit 5 to 10 Gbps of data to transfer images and video due to more data flowing through commercial vehicles than ever before.
  • The trend is to use hybrid connectors that can handle both data and power, some of which can be specified with two or four lines of signal and power.
  • Communications networks in commercial vehicles must provide all the benefits of high-speed networks found in automotive vehicles as well as greater protection from increased vibration, shock, and fluid ingress (while being housed in more complex and denser packages.)

3. Networking evolution

  • Compared to automotive applications, heavy-duty, off-highway applications typically require sealed systems with additional protection against increased vibration, shock, and fluid ingress. For that reason, interconnect systems for commercial vehicles require fully protected perimeter seals and wire seals rated to IP67 and IP69K for use in off-highway environments.
  • Sometimes, an even more ruggedized product is required for use on vehicle exteriors.
  • When protecting components from vibration in commercial vehicles, it helps to have multiple contact points within the connector system.

4. Changing sensors and standards

  • The use of sensors is growing in commercial vehicles—the challenge will be determining how information is collected from those sensors and how it is provided to a screen or interface in a manner that doesn’t overwhelm the operator.
  • Both the types of sensors and their sheer numbers are increasing, including sensors for lighting, air/tire pressure, current, and positioning, along with gas, brake, and hydraulic fluid levels. Sensors specific to agricultural vehicles include hopper level, application-rate, and high-rate seed sensors.
  • The manner in which sensors and connectors are specified in communication systems is evolving. Agricultural vehicle manufacturers tend to follow ISO Bus communications standards such as ISO 11783 and construction and mining vehicle manufacturers tend to follow SAE standards (see SAE J2030 and SAE J1939.)

5. Managing the ‘pizza box’

  • A large number of wires and connections are routed to control modules that can be the size of a pizza box. Just trying to get the mixture of straight and right-angle entry wires routed through the vehicle is an ever-increasing challenge.
  • In addition to standard body/chassis, safety, powertrain, and infotainment connectors, an emerging trend is toward electric drives and accessory connector systems for high-voltage power applications.
  • A communications network for a heavy-duty vehicle must be integrated based on system speed requirements, number of required ports, desired protocols, cable design, cable shielding levels, and connector attachments.

This article has been summarized. Complete details are available in the original article entitled “Tracking the trends in commercial vehicle communications,” published in SAE Off-Highway Engineering, one of SAE’s award-winning publications, on October 19, 2015. It was written for SAE Off-Highway Engineering by Gregory LaMirand, Global Business Development Manager, Arnold Perry Tchiegne, Industry Marketing Manager, and Dan Prescott, Director, Key Accounts and Industry Marketing, Molex, LLC.