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Commercial Trucking, Vehicle Conference Highlights Automation Technology

By Samantha Horton, IPB News | Published on in Business, Science, Technology, Transportation
ZF Friedrichshafen AG offered several demonstrations of its autonomous technology at the SAE International's COMVEC conference. (Samantha Horton/IPB News)
ZF Friedrichshafen AG offered several demonstrations of its autonomous technology at the SAE International's COMVEC conference. (Samantha Horton/IPB News)

The Society of Automotive Engineers hosted its annual commercial vehicle technology conference for the first time in Indiana. Companies showed off a variety of innovations including autonomous trucks and new hybrid diesel-electric engines.

Kelly Schmitz, Cummins executive director of new and recon parts engineering, says the Indianapolis location also is the first to offer technology demonstrations and ride-alongs at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It’s a great opportunity for everyone to see the technology first hand and get out here and actually feel what we’re talking about in the rooms with lectures and panels with all the experts,” says Schmitz.

The trucking industry in Indiana and other states struggles to find enough qualified drivers. The automotive companies demonstrated new technology Thursday that aims to help.

Sitting in the cab of a semi, ZF Friedrichshafen AG technical specialist Ananda Pandy demonstrates the company’s autonomous driving technology. The vehicle makes a few turns on its own before Pandy creates a malfunction to show how the technology responds by slowing down until the driver takes control.

At a time when there’s a shortage of truck drivers, Pandy says the technology makes truck driving more user-friendly and could encourage more people to apply for jobs in the industry.

“We need trucks to be on the road and we are short on drivers,” says Pandy. “So these technologies will enable to do it.”

He says this and other technologies will also allow drivers to be more productive transporting goods.

Several companies with operations in Indiana participated in the event including: ZF, Allison Transmission and Cummins.

Contact Samantha at shorton@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @SamHorton5.