As autonomous vehicles of all shapes and sizes continue to gain momentum, truck platooning is something we're starting to hear more and more about. The basic idea is that, fitted with self-driving technology, trucks wirelessly tethered with one another can roll down the highway in a tighter formation than would be possible with humans at the wheel. Daimler is set to trial such trucks on selected highways in the US as it begins testing of its truck platooning technology on American soil for the first time.
Truck platooning offers a number of potential benefits. We could see a huge reduction in congestion and accidents, along with fuel usage and C02 emissions. Daimler says that fuel economy figures could improve by as much as 10 percent, because of the ability of trailing trucks to fall tightly into the slipstream created by the leading vehicles.
And the company has been busy putting its platooning technology through it paces. Last year, it took part in the EU Truck Platooning Challenge along with other big names like Scania and Volvo, which saw a platoon of trucks cross national borders for the first time. It has also carried out platooning trials in Germany and the Netherlands.
Its move onto US soil follows testing at a private facility in Oregon, and comes with the blessing of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). The company will start by "pairing" two Freightliner New Cascadia trucks, and driving the digitally connected vehicles down certain highways in Oregon and Nevada. Larger fleet testing will follow in 2018.
"We see growing customer interest in platooning," said Roger Nielsen, President and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA). "This technology stands for more efficiency and safety. Platooning technology is not meant to replace drivers – it's designed to help drivers. When the world is ready for platooning, DTNA will have a proven solution. Right now, we are driving Freightliners in platoons every day. I have personally driven one of our trucks in a connected mode. My experience has been impressive."