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Publication numberWO2001033868 A2
Publication typeApplication
Application numberPCT/US2000/041589
Publication date10 May 2001
Filing date26 Oct 2000
Priority date29 Oct 1999
Also published asWO2001033868A3, WO2001033868A9
Publication numberPCT/2000/41589, PCT/US/0/041589, PCT/US/0/41589, PCT/US/2000/041589, PCT/US/2000/41589, PCT/US0/041589, PCT/US0/41589, PCT/US0041589, PCT/US041589, PCT/US2000/041589, PCT/US2000/41589, PCT/US2000041589, PCT/US200041589, WO 0133868 A2, WO 0133868A2, WO 2001/033868 A2, WO 2001033868 A2, WO 2001033868A2, WO-A2-0133868, WO-A2-2001033868, WO0133868 A2, WO0133868A2, WO2001/033868A2, WO2001033868 A2, WO2001033868A2
InventorsVinit Nijhawan, Tom Parker
ApplicantKinetic Computer Corporation
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: Patentscope, Espacenet
Network-based system for communicating with trucks
WO 2001033868 A2
Abstract
A system for communicating with one or more trucks (102) over the Internet includes an on-board computer system carried by each truck (102) that wirelessly connects to the Internet. The system also includes a server (120) connected to the Internet that stores data received from the on-board computer systems and transmits the data to other devices connected to the Internet.
Claims  (OCR text may contain errors)
1. A data commumcation system for exchanging data between a vehicle and a base station, said system comprising:
an on-board computer system mounted in said vehicle;
a communication interface for providing wireless data communication between said on-board computer system and a global computer network; and
a central server in communication with said global computer network, said central server being in data communication with said on-board computer system by way of said global computer network and adapted to execute software for exchange of data with said on-board computer system.
2. The system of claim 1 further comprising a local server in communication with said central server, said local server adapted to execute a browser for providing a user- interface for exchange of data with said central server.
3. The system of claim 1 wherein said communication interface is selected from the group consisting of a WAN interface and a LAN interface.
4. The system of claim 2 wherein said wireless communication interface is selected from the group consisting of a satellite data link interface and a terrestrial data link interface.
5. The system of claim 1 wherein said on-board computer system is configured to execute an operating system having a graphical user interface for the display of multiple windows.
6. The system of claim 1 wherein said on-board computer system includes a user- interface selected from the group consisting of a touch-screen interface, an audio interface, and a keyboard interface.
7. The system of claim 1 further comprising an interface to an engine control module of said vehicle for receiving vehicle operating data from said engine control module, said vehicle operating data thereby being made available for communication to said central server by way of said global computer network.
8. The system of claim 1 wherein said vehicle includes a cargo compartment and said data communication system further comprises an interface to a sensor configured to receive data concerning conditions in said cargo compartment, said data concerning thereby being made available for communication to said central server by way of said global computer network.
9. The system of claim 1 further comprising an interface between said on-board computer system and a GPS system, thereby making navigational data from said GPS system available to said central server by way of said global computer network.
10. The system of claim 1 wherein said on-board computer system further comprises a ROM having a boot loader stored therein for enabling remote updating of applications to be executed on said on-board computer system.
11. The system of claim 1 wherein said communication interface is adapted to exchange data between said on-board computer system and said central server over a virtual private network.
12. The system of claim 1 wherein said central server is adapted to execute software for exchange of data between said central server and a third-party computer network.
13. The system of claim 1 wherein said central server is in data communication with a plurality of local servers and said central server further comprises a data filter for ensuring that only selected portions of data available to said central server are made available to each of said local servers.
14. The system of claim 1 wherein said global computer network is the internet.
15. A method for exchanging data between a vehicle and a base station, the method comprising:
providing an on-board computer system in said vehicle;
providing a wireless communication interface between said on-board computer system and a global computer network; and
configuring a central server to interface with said global computer network; and
exchanging data between said central server and said on-board computer system by way of said global computer network.
16. The method of claim 15 further comprising:
providing a local server in communication with said central server, and
executing a browser on said local server for providing a user-interface for exchange of data with said central server.
17. The method of claim 15 wherein providing said wireless communication interface comprises selecting said wireless communication interface from a group consisting of a WAN interface and a LAN interface.
18. The method of claim 15 wherein providing said wireless communication interface comprises selecting said wireless communication interface from a group consisting of a satellite data link interface and a terrestrial data link interface.
19. The method of claim 15 further comprising configuring said on-board computer system to execute an operating system for providing a graphical user interface for the display of multiple windows.
20. The method of 15 further comprising selecting a user-interface to said ob-board computer system from a group consisting of a touch-screen interface, an audio interface, and a keyboard interface.
21. The method of claim 15 further comprising: providing an interface between said on-board computer system and an engine control module mounted on said vehicle;
receiving vehicle operating data from said engine control module by way of said interface; and
transmitting said vehicle operating data to said central server by way of said wireless communication link to said global computer network.
22. The method of claim 15 further comprising:
providing an interface between said on-board computer system and a cargo monitoring module mounted on said vehicle;
receiving cargo data from said cargo monitoring module by way of said interface; and
transmitting said cargo data to said central server by way of said wireless communication link to said global computer network.
23. The method of claim 15 further comprising:
providing an interface between said on-board computer and a GPS system for receipt of navigational data, and
transmitting said navigational data to said central server by way of said wireless communication link to said global computer network.
24. The method of claim 15 wherein exchanging data between said central server and said on-board computer system comprises establishing a virtual private network between said on-board computer system and said central server.
25. The method of claim 15 wherein said central server is adapted to execute software for exchange of data between said central server and a third-party computer network.
26. The method of claim 15 further comprising:
establishing data communication links between said central server and a plurality of local servers, and
ensuring that only selected portions of data available to said central server are made available to each of said local servers.
27. The method of claim 15 further comprising selecting said global computer network to be the internet.
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

NETWORK-BASED SYSTEM FOR COMMUNICATING WITH TRUCKS

BACKGROUND

Managing a fleet of tractor-trailer trucks often requires careful logistical planning and close attention to a wide variety of administrative matters. For example, fleet managers usually monitor truck performance, driver performance, and fleet deployment to control operation costs and provide timely delivery services. The managers must also make sure that fleet drivers and vehicles comply with a variety of federal and local regulations. For example, Department of Transportation rules govern the number of consecutive hours a driver can be on the road, how much rest a driver needs, and so forth. Additionally, many states exact a fuel tax on trucks traveling in the state based on the duration of the truck's journey through the state and the amount of gas purchased. Technological advances have eased these management tasks somewhat. For example, a computer on-board a vehicle can use a wireless cellular messaging service to continually report the vehicle's current location and emergencies. However, some fleet managers have been somewhat reluctant to adopt on-board computers due to their cost and the fear of obsolescence.

SUMMARY

A system for communicating with one or more trucks over the Internet includes an on-board computer system carried by each truck that wirelessly connects to the Internet. The system also includes a server connected to the Internet that stores data received from the on-board computer systems and transmits the data to other devices connected to the Internet.

Advantages of the invention will become apparent in view of the following description, including the figures, and the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIGs. 1-5 are diagrams of a network-based vehicle management system. FIG. 6 is a diagram of the components of an on-board computer system.

FIG. 7 is a diagram of a network server.

FIGs. 8A-8I are screenshots of a graphical user interface to the system.

DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 shows a fleet management system 100 that enables cargo shippers 108, cargo carriers 114, and others to use an ordinary web-browser 110, 116 to monitor, control, and/or communicate with tractor-trailer trucks 102 on the road. Each truck 102 includes an on-board computer (OBC) that communicates with a server 120 over a wireless data carrier 104. As the vehicle 102 travels to and from cargo collection and drop-off points, the vehicle 102 can send information describing the vehicle 102, driver, and cargo in nearly real-time.

In addition to reporting information, the system 100 also enables network users to communicate with the vehicle 102, again, using ordinary browser software 110, 116. For example, a user can send a driver text and/or graphic road directions, the locations of new pickup and delivery points, and traffic and weather updates. A user can even remotely control operating characteristics of the truck 102, for example, by sending data describing a maximum driving speed, maximum engine speed (in RPM), and so forth.

FIGs. 2 to 5 show an example of system 100 operation. As shown in FIG. 2, a truck 102 wirelessly transmits information 122 to the server 120 over the wireless data carrier 104. Such transmission may be asynchronous or in response to a request. The information 122 can include a time stamp (not shown), a vehicle identifier, the vehicle's location, the vehicle engine's speed (in RPM), and a wide variety of other data (not shown). The information 122 can be included as payload in an HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) or other IP (Internet Protocol) data packet. The server 120 can store the received information in a database for subsequent transmission to users or for use in analysis and reports.

As shown in FIG. 3, a user operating an ordinary web-browser, such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer, can login and request 124 information about the truck 102. For example, the request 124 may be encoded as parameters in an HTTP message (e.g., http://www.server.com inquiry.cgi? truck=007&RPM="?"). As shown in FIG. 4, upon receiving the request, the server 120 can retrieve and transmit the most recently acquired data 124 from the truck, for example, encoded in an XML (Extensible Markup Language) or HTML (HyperText Markup Language) document. As shown in FIG. 5, a user can also send a message 126 to the truck 102 by using the server 120. As shown in FIGs. 2-5, ordinary access to the Internet is sufficient to provide a user with a wide variety of fleet information. The system functions provided can vary for different classes of network users. For example, a shipper 108 can visit a server 120 website to access estimated and actual delivery schedules; a carrier 114 employee can visit the server 120 to track fleet deployment, and vehicle and driver performance; and a customer can enter a shipping reference number to track delivery of a particular package.

While FIGs. 1-5 show only a single carrier 114 and a single shipper 108, the server 120 can provide fleet information to a number of different carriers and/or shippers. The centralized collection of data can spread the cost of system 100 features over different companies, potentially reducing the initial outlay required of any one company. The server 120 also enables users to access services offered by third-party value- added websites 106 while visiting the server 120 web-site. For example, other web-sites enable carriers to load-balance (i.e., match trucks having excess capacity with cargo), process data to print driver paychecks, handle regulatory filings, send EDI (electronic data interchange) information to a particular shipper, handle customs clearance, or handle supply chain information (e.g., SCOR and CPFR). The server 120 handles communication (e.g., queries and data translation) with the other websites. Accessing other services from within the web-site provided by the server enables users to "one stop shop". That is, a user can perform a wide variety of tasks just by visiting a single site. Additionally, this feature enables the server to add services for users without substantial development costs. Access to the third-party services may also be implemented using other non-web service links such as EDI, e-mail, and facsimile data transmission.

To provide privacy and ensure that different parties have access to appropriate collections of information, each user (or group of users) may have his own password- protected area of the server 120 that provides access to his proprietary business information. Additionally, connections to the server can include security features such as encryption, for example, using HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) or VPN (Virtual Private Network) tunnels.

Instead of a user connecting to the server 120 via browsers 112, 116, access may be done by programming the servers 118, 112 to automatically interact with the central server 120, for example, to periodically download information on truck locations and deliveries. The servers 118, 112 can include canned interfaces to other applications such as TMW™, McLeod™, Innovative™ accounting packages.

As shown in FIG. 6, to communicate with the server 120 and the network users, each vehicle 102 can include an on-board computer 134 that collects data from vehicle equipment and from the driver. For example, a Global Positioning System (GPS) 136 system can feed the on-board computer 134 the current latitude and longitude of the vehicle. The on-board computer 134 can also interface with a variety of electronic systems 140 found on modern vehicles. For example, a J1708 data bus carries data to and from an engine control module (ECM) that monitors engine conditions such as engine temperature, engine speed, and so forth. Similarly, a J1708 data bus carries data describing conditions in the truck trailer, such as refrigeration temperature. The on-board computer can also interface with a variety of other systems (e.g., the J1939 bus).

The on-board computer 134 is not limited to reading data from these interfaces, but can also send data to control the vehicle. For example, when a gas tank nears empty, the on-board computer 134 (or system server or remote user) can initiate fuel conservation by sending data to the ECM to reduce a maximum RPM value.

The on-board computer 134 can receive input 138 from a vehicle operator through a variety of input devices. For example, a driver may provide input using a touch-screen or a keyboard. Alternatively, the on-board computer 134 can process utterances detected by a microphone 129 with speech recognition software. Use of speech recognition permits hands-free operation, a substantial advantage for drivers speeding down the highway. By interacting with graphical or voice user interface dialogs provided by the computer 134, a driver can report emergencies (e.g., a flat tire), a fuel purchase, or his or her activity status (e.g., on duty, off duty, or sleeping). Combining this data with data obtained from the vehicle, such as vehicle speed, the computer 134 can then determine on-duty driving hours, on-duty stationary hours, off-duty hours, and sleeping hours for inclusion in a driver log. Such a system can ease record keeping tasks required of drivers by law.

The on-board computer 134 can also determine a wide variety of vehicle and driver information from operator input and data collected from the vehicle. This information can include miles per gallon of the vehicle, incidents of excessive engine idling, a number of times the engine exceeded a particular RPM or road speed, ECM engine fault codes, a number of "hard brakings" (i.e., rapid deceleration), and so forth.

In addition to reporting vehicle and driver data, the on-board computer may also exchange "free-form" or formatted messages with network users. Free-form messages can include sender specified text, images, sound or other information. Formatted messages feature templates that include fields for reporting commonly reported information, such as the time, place, amount, and cost of fuel added to the truck, or the time, place, and nature of vehicle malfunction. The use of formatted messages can reduce the amount of data transmitted between truck 102 and server 106. That is, instead of a long text message, transmitted data may merely include identification of the form and the field values. In addition to input/output devices 138 and vehicle LAN 140 interfaces, the on-board computer 134 may feature other ports (not shown), such as an RS232 port for emergency data extraction and debugging or an IrDA port for communicating with a handheld computer that can read bar-codes, signatures, and other package handling data. The on-board computer 134 can interface with a variety of communication equipment. The on-board computer 134 may be agnostic to the particular communication equipment used (e.g., the computer 134 need not know it is connected to a cellular transceiver instead of a radio). Additionally, a vehicle may include more than one piece of communication equipment. The on-board computer 134 may select a mode of communication based on the nature of data being sent and the communication equipment present. For example, the computer 134 can use WAN (Wide Area Network) wireless communication equipment 130 to send and receive time-sensitive information over wireless terrestrial and or satellite data carriers. The computer 134 may initiate such transmission in response to predefined events. For example, the computer 134 may transmit data to the server when a driver logs-on to the system, when a dispatcher makes a data request, when the vehicle is in an accident, or when on-board computer 134 memory runs low. The on-board computer 134 may use message queuing to temporarily buffer messages while awaiting data transmission.

The vehicle 102 can also include a short-range RF-link 128 to communicate with a wireless LAN-based terminal at a vehicle dock. This enables the on-board computer 134 to store less time sensitive data in a database 132 for transmission to the server 120 after the vehicle docks. For example, the computer 134 may store Department of Transportation logs, fuel tax data, and driver performance data for batch delivery to the server when the vehicle finally reaches a dock instead of transmitting the information over the long-range wireless equipment 130. This approach reduces costs associated with the use of a wireless data carrier.

The on-board computer 134 (e.g., a PC/Piranha from Kinetic Computer Corporation, an AutoPC™, or smart cellular phone) may use the Windows CE operating system. Use of a popular operating system preserves a purchaser's investment by permitting simple upgrades to both the operating system and hardware without compatibility problems between the operating system and any application programs.

Additionally, the on-board computer 134 may include a boot-loader in ROM memory (not shown) that allows the unit to be remotely updated with new application and operating system software from the server.

In some embodiments, the on-board computer 134 is a "thin client" including little more than a browser and wireless IP software, leaving the server 120 to process the data. In other embodiments, the on-board computer 134 performs substantial analysis of collected data.

Referring to FIG. 7, the server 120 includes a database 142 for storing vehicle, cargo, and driver information received from each truck in addition to data passing between network users and drivers.

The server 120 also includes software 142 (e.g., CGI (Common Gateway Interface) script processor) for processing received requests. The requests may be received both from drivers (e.g., a request for directions) and by users, for example, to receive reports constructed from data stored in the database. The reports can include fleet utilization statistics (e.g., how many trucks are operating and how full the trucks are), a time record of driver activities, current or past driver status (e.g., on or off duty), state fuel tax information (e.g., when, where, and how much fuel was pumped), data describing trailer drop aging, fuel efficiency of a truck over a specified period, truck mileage, and predicted and actual delivery times.

The server software 142 can include instructions for automating tasks. For example, the software 142 can automatically transmit rerouting information to trucks based on changing conditions such as severe weather, traffic jams, or changes in itinerary. The server software 142 can also provide other automated functions, such as reminding a driver to go off-duty or sleep when the driver has been on the road too long.

FIGs. 8A-8I show sample screenshots of a browser session with the system server. FIG. 8 A shows a user logging-on to the system. Based on the user's identity, the user may be associated with a particular class (e.g., driver, carrier, shipper, third-party added-value provider) of user and given access to different reporting and communicating capabilities. For example, while a carrier manager may be able to limit a truck's maximum speed, a consumer may not. Additionally, the user's ID can be used to limit the information available. That is, a user associated with Company A cannot look at data associated with Company B.

As shown in FIG. 8B, the system provides a message board that lists messages exchanged with remote vehicles. This enables a user to closely monitor vehicle activity. As shown in FIG. 8C, users can track vehicle locations at different levels of detail (e.g., street, city, and state scales). Users can also display the current position of a vehicle and the history of the position of a vehicle. A map need not be limited to a single vehicle, but can instead display the location of a designated grouping of vehicles or all the vehicles within a specified distance of some location. This capability enables dispatchers to quickly deploy trucking resources based on proximity to a given point. As shown in FIG. 8D, this information may be displayed as text instead of as the map display of FIG. 8C.

As shown in FIGs. 8E-8I, the information collected from the trucks and drivers can be presented in a variety of useful reports. FIG. 8E shows a driver performance report that indicates a driver's efficiency, idle periods, and the number of time the driver over-reved an engine or exceeded a specified speed. FIG. 8F shows a driver availability report that uses a driver's activities (e.g., driving, off-duty, sleeping) to determine how much the driver can drive on the current day or on N future days. These figures may be based on government or company imposed safety regulations. FIG. 8G shows a fuel efficiency report that can use data such as odometer readings, tank capacity, and fuelings to determine MPG, fuel usage, and so forth.

FIG. 8H shows a state mileage report that indicates when a vehicle entered a state, how many miles the vehicle drove through the state (e.g., odometer at state exit - odometer at state entry), and how many gallons of fuel was pumped within state boundaries. These reports ease the administrative burden associated with paying state fuel taxes. Finally, FIG. 81 shows a vehicle fault report that can catalog different problems a vehicle has encountered. The reports shown in FIGs. 8A-8I are merely examples. Additionally, a user can tailor such reports to feature data within a given time period, for a particular driver, a particular vehicle, a particular group of vehicles, and so forth.

EMBODIMENTS Though primarily described as an HTTP based system, a number of other different communication protocols such as FTP (File Transfer Protocol) can be used. Wireless data services may be provided by BellSouth Wireless Data's Mobitex, Norcom, CDPD, ARDIS, Qualcomm, circuit switched cellular, and or MS AT satellite packet data services. The OBC may feature IP (Internet Protocol) wireless middleware such as NetTech Systems Smart IP wireless middleware. Message queuing technology from NetTech (Rfexpress) or Microsoft (Message Queue) may be used to buffer data before wireless transmission.

The techniques may be implemented in hardware or software, or a combination of the two. Preferably, the techniques are implemented in computer programs executing on programmable computers that each include a processor, a storage medium readable by the processor (including volatile and non-volatile memory and/or storage elements), at least one input device, and one or more output devices. Program code is applied to data entered using the input device to perform the functions described and to generate output information. The output information is applied to one or more output devices.

Each program is preferably implemented in a high level procedural or object oriented programming language to communicate with a computer system. However, the programs can be implemented in assembly or machine language, if desired. In any case, the language may be a compiled or interpreted language.

Each such computer program is preferable stored on a storage medium or device (e.g., CD-ROM, hard disk or magnetic diskette) that is readable by a general or special purpose programmable computer for configuring and operating the computer when the storage medium or device is read by the computer to perform the procedures described in this document. The system may also be considered to be implemented as a computer- readable storage medium, configured with a computer program, where the storage medium so configured causes a computer to operate in a specific and predefined manner. Other embodiments are within the scope of the following claims.

What is claimed is:

Patent Citations
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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
WO2003098575A114 May 200327 Nov 2003Miyama, Inc.Vehicle operation information management evaluation system
WO2006015425A1 *9 Aug 200516 Feb 2006Stephen PetrikGps monitoring, biometric smartcard, intelligent speed management
EP1339247A2 *12 Feb 200327 Aug 2003Vodafone Holding GmbHMethod for drawing up data for mobile users of an information transmission system
EP1339247A3 *12 Feb 200314 Sep 2005Vodafone Holding GmbHMethod for drawing up data for mobile users of an information transmission system
EP1507245A1 *14 May 200316 Feb 2005Miyama, Inc.Vehicle operation information management evaluation system
EP1507245A4 *14 May 200311 Apr 2007Miyama IncVehicle operation information management evaluation system
US815441914 Dec 200710 Apr 2012Halliburton Energy Services Inc.Oilfield area network communication system and method
US86162747 May 201031 Dec 2013Halliburton Energy Services, Inc.System and method for remote wellbore servicing operations
Classifications
International ClassificationG08G1/123, H04W4/02, H04W80/04
Cooperative ClassificationH04W80/04, H04W4/02, G08G1/20, G07C5/008
European ClassificationG08G1/20, H04W4/02
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