September 6, 2022
Posted by: DevDigital
Self-driving 18-wheelers would make the trucking industry more profitable and energy-efficient, but “selling” the idea of a computer-controlled big rig is not easy. The experts behind Pittsburgh-based Locomation developed the technology it takes to deliver self-driving trucks but they needed something to help sell the technology. Their proprietary technology needs quite a bit of explaining. Locomation hired DevDigital to build a Web-based app that explains the Autonomous Relay Convoy™ system and shows potential customers how much money they could save using it.
They address two challenges facing the trucking industry. One is the expected growth in demand for freight shipping, 36% from 2020 to 2013. Unsurprisingly demand for drivers will likely grow faster than the supply of new drivers. The gap between the number of CDL holders and the number the industry needs could hit 160,000 in 2028. The solution lies in automation, specifically in reducing the need for drivers by using self-driving trucks. People are becoming more comfortable with self-driving cars, so the idea of computer-controlled trucks isn’t too difficult to accept.
The team at Locomation took a step in the direction of making autonomous trucks a reality by launching their hybrid driverless truck technology. This Autonomous Relay Convoy™ system increases a company’s ability to move freight with fewer drivers by using one truck with a human driver to guide another computer-controlled truck. They had the hardware and the artificial intelligence (AI) software, but they needed something to help “sell” the technology to trucking companies.
Locomation contracted with DevDigital to build a Customer Journey app that would help both demonstrate and sell the Autonomous Relay Convoy™ at trade shows and online. The Customer Journey Map is a Web-based tool that helps users understand the potential value that the system delivers to a specific user.
The best way to sell a technology like this is to let potential customers see how they will benefit personally from using it. Whatever their marketing rationale, they wanted a web-based demo tool. DevDigital created a web-based app with four functions:
. View an explainer video, which explains the Autonomous Relay Network
· Offer four profile options relevant to types of customers or businesses in the trucking industry
· Create a virtual “test drive” with real data on the client’s routes to see how Locomation would help
· Provide access to a resource library including videos and PDFs
The test drive portion of the app is probably the most important. It allows users can create their routes to estimate savings or view sample segments. The Customer Journey Map automatically calculates changes to cost per mile, driver utilization, greenhouse gas emissions, and equipment utilization. This requires some complicated back-end programming to get the math correct. DevDigital will be doing some more development work as Locomation rolls out three new profile options.
Our main goal initially was to get the app ready for a trade show in early April. To reach that goal with worked with strategy and design partner OtherLeft. They defined the design and functionality of the app needed, in consultation with Locomation. OtherLeft also needed to understand not only what the software would do, but also how users would interact with it, so they created user stories that could be broken down into concrete steps or options, which a designer could use to create screens and a developer could use to write code. They created a first draft of the Customer Journey Map and refined the design in consultation with Locomation.
Then, they passed along the prototype and design documents to DevDigital, who took care of the coding and testing. OtherLeft also acted as a liaison with Locomation as development proceeded. As with many software development projects, this one experienced some minor hiccups and one huge challenge.
Dealing With an Unexpected Challenge
The Customer Journey app, with one profile complete, seemed to be ready for a demo but there was a last-minute roadblock. The math wasn’t right in some of the calculations. Our development team and project manager did some emergency work the weekend before an important trade show to make sure numbers for fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions were calculated and displayed correctly. We had to crank out a list-minute fix to the Customer Journey Map software the day before a trade show in April. Two rounds of tweaking the software produced a tool that was ready for the public on Monday morning,
Delivering Complex Web Apps on Time and on Budget
Locomation had a great technical solution to a problem in the trucking industry, but they needed to create a Web-based app that would help customers understand their Autonomous Relay Network™ and see the value to their business. DevDigital delivered a sales and education tool in time for a major trade show. If you need custom software, whether a Web app or mobile app, or cloud-based software, DevDigital has the technical and project management talent to get things done. Contact us to schedule a conversation about your software development needs.