(North Chicago, IL and Stuart, FL) – Now that a month has passed since the much-anticipated introduction of Liberty Coach’s redesigned cockpit, one thing remains abundantly clear:
When it comes to technological innovation in motorcoach design, Liberty Coach is miles ahead of the field – again.
In fact, that’s been the case since 1979, when Liberty built the first Prevost conversion and effectively launched the modern motorcoach industry. And in the decades since, the Liberty story has been breakthrough after breakthrough: from propane-free electric hot water and generator auto start systems, to Crestron remote control and revolutionary lithium ion battery technologies, and many, many more.
Yet even by the company’s own lofty standards, the 2016 Cockpit Redesign is something special.
That’s due in large part to the expanded role of the iPad in controlling coach components and systems, says Liberty Coach V.P. and managing partner Frank Konigseder, Jr. Secured to the dashboard by Liberty’s exclusive STRUT Launchport docking system, the iPad is configured to provide fingertip control of virtually everything in the coach.
“From a technology standpoint, centralizing control in the iPad was the key to the project.” Konigseder points out. “It allowed us to eliminate two bulky in-dash consoles and create a dashboard design that is much simpler, sleeker and cleaner. More importantly, it greatly enhances every aspect of coach control, making it simpler, more user-friendly, and much more powerful.”
That’s because for the first time, both the AM/FM/Sirius stereo and the Rand McNally navigation system are operated through the iPad in the new configuration. Consolidating the systems presented a formidable challenge, especially in light of Konigseder’s goal to make the new GPS navigation system operational anywhere – even in cellular “dead zones.”
“It’s a problem we ran into a lot, especially in remote places like the area around Sturgis,” Frank says of the challenges posed by spotty cellular service. As dependent as all drivers have become on GPS, he was determined to find a solution as close to foolproof as possible. And he spent the better part of a year researching it.
First, he purchased a number of compact GPS antenna devices and road-tested them around Florida and on the trip from North Chicago to Sturgis – “we’d set them up outside or on the dash – even hanging out the door while the coach was moving.” When none proved satisfactory, Konigseder turned his attention to a powerful RV GPS unit from mapping giant Rand McNally, and the internal cellular capabilities of the iPad itself.
“It’s a stand-alone application that stores the entire Rand McNally library of road maps – almost 4 Gb in all – on the iPad itself,” he says. “So it’s accessible with or without an ISP connection.” What’s more, the system is programmed to function seamlessly with the iPad’s built-in cellular antenna, which is automatically engaged when Internet service is unavailable – in other words, when you hit a dead spot.
Less visible but no less important were the “green” improvements made to the cockpit design and its components. “We were able to reduce the coach’s weight significantly by eliminating wiring and components that are no longer necessary,” Konigseder says. “What’s more, many of the new components – the LED lighting, for example – are much more efficient in terms of energy use.” And that, he says, is what really counts as he looks to the future of the motorcoach business and Liberty Coach’s quest to stay miles ahead – again.