Automotive

Daimler sends autonomous truck platoon on Stuttgart to Rotterdam road trip

Daimler is keen to prove the economy and safety benefits of autonomous truck platooning
Daimler is keen to prove the economy and safety benefits of autonomous truck platooning
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Daimler is keen to prove the economy and safety benefits of autonomous truck platooning
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Daimler is keen to prove the economy and safety benefits of autonomous truck platooning
The three trucks in the trial use a connected version of Daimler's Highway Pilot system
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The three trucks in the trial use a connected version of Daimler's Highway Pilot system
Connected Highway Pilot uses Wi-Fi to keep the platoon connected wirelessly
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Connected Highway Pilot uses Wi-Fi to keep the platoon connected wirelessly
Highway Pilot can inform the other connected trucks it's braking within 0.1 seconds
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Highway Pilot can inform the other connected trucks it's braking within 0.1 seconds

Daimler has let three of its autonomous trucks loose on public roads, setting them the task of driving from Stuttgart to Rotterdam as a fully connected platoon. As well as demonstrating the scope of Daimler's own autonomous tech, the road trip is a part of the European Truck Platooning Challenge that aims to hasten the appearance of automated platoons on Europe's roads.

Introduced by the Netherlands during its presidency of the European Union, the European Truck Platooning Challenge aims to facilitate the progression of autonomous truck platooning due to its potential to reduce congestion, cut down on accidents caused by human error and make significant cuts to the amount of CO2 emitted by trucks on the road.

Taking part in this Challenge, the trucks undertaking the Germany to Netherlands road trip are all linked via Wi-Fi and rely on Daimler's Connected Highway Pilot system. Unlike regular trucks, which need to leave a 50-meter (164-ft) gap, autonomously controlled truck platoons can sit just 15 m (49 ft) apart. That means a convoy of autonomous trucks takes up just 80 m (262 ft) of highway space, as opposed to 150 m (492 ft) for a normal convoy of trucks under human control.

They can follow so closely together thanks to the Connected Pilot system, which lets the other trucks in formation know about sudden braking in just 0.1 seconds – or 1.3 seconds faster than the average human can react to a set of brake lights. However, there are drivers aboard the platoon who bear responsibility for the control of all assistance systems on board the vehicles.

Connected Highway Pilot uses Wi-Fi to keep the platoon connected wirelessly
Connected Highway Pilot uses Wi-Fi to keep the platoon connected wirelessly

Daimler is also quick to point out the fuel-saving potential of truck platoons. Because the trucks are traveling so close together they can take full advantage of the draft coming off the leaders, which can lead to a 10 percent improvement in fuel economy figures and cut the amount of CO2 emitted on a journey. That might sound like a small saving in isolation, but if Europe's entire fleet were to achieve similar cuts, the effects would be huge.

"We consider platooning as meaningful part of the integrated approach in which all stakeholders in road transport contribute to reduce fuel consumption and CO2", said Daimler's Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard. "Driving in a convoy is one of numerous examples to raise the performance of goods transport extensively with connected trucks."

The convoy departed Stuttgart on Monday and is expected to arrive in Rotterdam on April 6.

A video explaining platooning can be viewed below.

Source: Daimler

Update (Apr. 7, 2016): Daimler's trucks arrived in Rotterdam on April as planned, pulling into the local shipping port alongside alongside entries from Man, Iveco, Volvo, Scania and DAF.

Platooning - how it works

5 comments
DomainRider
Looks great - but when in traffic with cars in the outside lane, do they always move apart to allow cars space to pull in between them (e.g. prior to turning off, or to allow emergency vehicles to pass) ? If so, the platoon will be far less efficient in realistic traffic conditions with cars continually passing and potentially wanting to pull in to the platoon lane.
Bob Flint
Although most drivers will tend not to intentionally travel between two trucks, for safety reasons myself included, there will be dummies that will thwart the efforts of streamlining and purposely or accidentally get in the way...maybe the spiked wheel studs need to be bigger sort of like in "Mad Max Fury road"
Stephen N Russell
Export to US & test in US from LA to NY or Miami or Miami to Seattle. LA, CA to Vic BC or Denver to Toronto. Then C reaction by Teamsters Union
dionkraft
The example of the three truck all of a sudden changing lanes is a little troublesome. The long range scanner should had made the lane change way before before. Another is even if it knew that it had to change lanes and their was a car next to the middle truck what happens next? I would think the software would slow down the 2nd truck so that the car would pass on its left so it could change lanes. Same idea for the 3rd truck in the event of a car next to it. These demos are all very nice but they do not represent real world road situations as they have not been shown to the public.
JonathanBrouwer
This is so amazingly innovative! The obvious next step would be to join them together and put them on rails. They could call it a "TRAIN"!!
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