Daimler Trucks is teaching trucks how to pay

Daimler Trucks is consistently driving forward the digitalization of its trucks. As a result, drivers are relieved of stress in their daily work. Work processes are also becoming more efficient and more secure.

One area of development in this context is the ability of trucks to autonomously communicate with other machines and carry out legally-binding transactions, such as payments. With the digital Truck-ID and the associated Truck Wallet, experts at Daimler Trucks have created the appropriate prerequisite technologies for making payments as part of a pilot project.

In an initial use case, developers have joined forces with partners and successfully carried out an automatic payment at an electric charging station.

Truck-ID and Truck Wallet enable autonomously functioning truck

Trucks can identify themselves to other machines using their Truck-ID as if they had their own integrated ID card and can thus provide a unique signature for specific processes. The Truck Wallet works as a platform technology and central user program for all applications which can access the Truck-ID for various purposes. Truck-ID and Truck Wallet – both currently still in the prototype phase – are stored as encrypted software programs within a cryptographic processor. This processor is part of the Truck Data Center, the central telematics control unit of the new Mercedes-Benz Actros.

Autonomous interaction between trucks and other machines

Dr. Helge Königs, head of the Truck Wallet project at Daimler Trucks: "With Truck-ID and Truck Wallet we have laid the foundation for autonomous interaction between trucks and other machines – a true technological milestone. Our aim is to have trucks, in the future, able to act on their own behalf in various fields of application. Drivers can then concentrate more on their actual driving tasks, while transport firms benefit from a significant reduction in administration work and more secure processes. This renders it practically impossible to carry out such things as fuel card scams whereby criminals copy a fuel card and spy on the PIN number being entered. Our highly automated truck prototypes show the direction in which such further developments can go."

This is how Truck Wallet and Truck-ID work

Just like a real wallet, the Truck Wallet can hold cash for payments and additional cards such as fuel cards and loyalty cards – all in digital form. The electronic information, which also includes any required cash, is stored directly in the Truck Wallet and can then be transferred to other machines via a Wi-Fi connection. This process is secured by means of checks on an online system. The radio technology is a component of the Truck Data Center.

In addition to the automation of processes, the biggest advantage of carrying out transactions with the Truck Wallet comes in conjunction with the Truck-ID. The Truck-ID digitally signs all processes of the Truck Wallet and thus serves as a confirmation that the transactions were actually made with the corresponding truck. Transactions are thus made legitimate in this way. In conjunction with specific telematics data that are additionally stored, such as the current location of the truck, this system offers logistics companies and their business partners a high level of protection against scams. Generation of the individual Truck-ID is carried out using a proven asymmetrical cryptographic procedure. The secret component of the Truck-ID is thus unknown to Daimler Trucks, the suppliers of the processor and the Truck Data Center or even the transport firms themselves.

Successful pilot implementation: automatic payments

In co-operation with Commerzbank and its "main incubator" research and development unit, Daimler Trucks has carried out a fully automated payment process with a truck system. A fully built-up truck was not required to do so; as part of the pilot testing the appropriate truck components – mainly the Truck Data Center including the Truck-ID and Truck Wallet – were sufficient. Commerzbank is currently the only bank in Germany to have developed an e-payment system for this purpose. It is based on Corda, which is an established blockchain platform technology for transactions. As part of the payments process, real money in digital, encrypted form is added to the Truck Wallet of the truck system in the form of e-euros. After a payment is made by the Truck Wallet, the money is uniquely identifiable thanks to the Truck-ID and is next transferred to the recipient. The recipient can then request Commerzbank to transfer this e-money back to its own account. The transaction is validated and stored online by Corda. In this way, the truck owner can trace whether one of its vehicles has made a payment. This process is proven and legal today as the system meets all requirements of the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin). As a part of this process, the electronic cash is covered by means of a billing account with Commerzbank. Any suspicious transactions can be immediately detected and, in the case of doubt, submitted to BaFin for investigation.

Most varied of applications imaginable

Paying tolls could become drastically easier. To date, truck drivers must still manually enter data in the toll system, whereby errors can occur. It would be possible to use this new technology so the truck directly provides the toll system with the data with a unique signature via a Wi-Fi connection. This would save truck drivers and haulers a good deal of time, stress and money [-- in a highly secure transaction].

In the same way, freight processes could take place directly via the truck itself: The truck carries the freight papers digitally and “signs” them when it arrives at the destination. It then receives the appropriate confirmation for the receipt of the goods from the system there.

Truck-ID and Truck Wallet can also partially take over controlling and billing of subcontractors by proving when the truck was used and by which user. To this end all that is required by the user is a suitable technological counterpart, such as a smartphone with an appropriate app, which is capable of communicating with the Truck Wallet.

Even processing of vehicle leasing and short-term use contracts (e.g. "pay-per-use") can be controlled directly from the truck itself. Customers pay directly at the vehicle and the truck decides for itself whether the required conditions for operational readiness are met.

Further piloting and testing planned

Daimler Trucks continues to drive forward the development of the Truck-ID and Truck Wallet. We are working together with co-operation partners and plan further piloting and testing of this promising technology.

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