Simulating Predictive Cruise Control for a Heavy-Duty Truck: Quickly and Easily

Written by Shreyash Ukidave

December 15, 2023
heavy duty truck simulation

Enchanting World of Heavy-Duty Trucks

Start your engines, or in the case of an EV, activate your electric motors! Today, we’re diving headfirst into the intriguing world of predictive cruise control (or PCC for short) for a heavy-duty truck with a trailer.

What is predictive cruise control? Is that when my truck predicts my next coffee break and drives itself to the nearest café?” Not quite, but we’re about to embark on a technical adventure that’s both fascinating and energy-saving! So, buckle up, because this blog will take you on a ride filled with science, strategy, and a pinch of humor.

Creating a Heavy-Duty Truck Road Trip with Simulation

Our story begins with a 36-ton Diesel behemoth, the long-haul king of the road. 70% of the freight is transported across the United States in heavy-duty trucks (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. US Freight Transport Statistics

Now, PCC isn’t a crystal ball telling the truck’s future, but it’s the next best thing. It takes a sneak peek at the road ahead, courtesy of some nifty navigation tools, and then flexes its mathematical muscles to figure out the optimal speed to tackle whatever terrain lies in its path. Why? The main goal of PCC is to make sure our truck sips the diesel efficiently and does not stress service brakes too much while navigating terrains that range from steep hills to gentle slopes (see Figure 2).

Predictive Cruise Control Graphical Representation

Figure 2. Predictive Cruise Control Graphical Representation

To make this all work, our PCC strategy has two functions: terrain awareness and speed optimization. The terrain awareness function slices and dices the upcoming road data, while the speed optimization function goes full Einstein, calculating costs and optimizing speeds.

We built functions, through the simulation platform GT-SUITE, that performs PCC in the background with inputs from the model (see Figure 3). A user just needs to drop the PCC compound in a model, interface three control signals with the driver including: target speed minimum and maximum speed limits, and then watch as PCC tries to optimize speed profile over a terrain and eke out considerable fuel savings.

Predictive Cruise Control Compound with Attribute Setup in GT-SUITE simulation

Figure 3. Predictive Cruise Control Compound with Attribute Setup in GT-SUITE

Energy Savings Results with Predictive Cruise Control

Now, the million-dollar question is, does PCC make a difference? Is it more than just a fancy set of algorithms and a slick name? GT-SUITE’s simulations have the answer.

In a world where standard drivers keep their cruise control locked at a constant speed, PCC stands out. It’s like having a driving coach whispering in your ear, telling you to speed up on that downhill slope and ease off the pedal when you’re climbing uphill.

The results? By applying the PCC strategy, this mighty truck, even with a 50% load, achieves an impressive 1% fuel savings. Actual fuel savings depend upon a lot of factors such as drive cycle, terrain profile, payload, lookahead distance, PCC speed offsets, and so forth. There is a considerable reduction in brake usage too, increasing the brake life. In the chart below (Figure 4), see the benefits of this PCC strategy on the US Interstate 5 route.

predictive cruise control benefits simulation

Figure 4. GT-SUITE Simulation Results of PCC Benefits on Interstate 5 Routes

Leverage Trucking Simulation for Your Next Cruise!

In the realm of heavy-duty trucks traveling hundreds of miles every day, where every drop of fuel counts, 1% fuel savings can add up to lowering operating costs.

A PCC example model is available in GT-SUITE’s v2024 Build 0 which demonstrates how to use PCC compound in a vehicle model. Now you can simulate different speed and terrain profiles and analyze possible fuel savings on any route. It’s not just about getting from point A to point B; it’s about doing it smarter, more efficiently, and with a few technical tricks up your sleeve.

To learn more about our truck and commercial vehicle simulation capabilities, visit this webpage or speak to an expert today!