Automotive

Autonomous trucks successfully platoon across Europe

Autonomous trucks successfully...
DAF, Daimler, Iveco, MAN, Scania and Volvo all participated in the EU Truck Platooning Challenge
DAF, Daimler, Iveco, MAN, Scania and Volvo all participated in the EU Truck Platooning Challenge
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DAF, Daimler, Iveco, MAN, Scania and Volvo all participated in the EU Truck Platooning Challenge
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DAF, Daimler, Iveco, MAN, Scania and Volvo all participated in the EU Truck Platooning Challenge
The challenge started from various locations across Europe, including Sweden, Germany and Belgium
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The challenge started from various locations across Europe, including Sweden, Germany and Belgium
The different platoons made their way across the continent to Rotterdam, Netherlands, where they arrived on April 6
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The different platoons made their way across the continent to Rotterdam, Netherlands, where they arrived on April 6
Each company currently uses its own technology for its trucks to communicate with each other
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Each company currently uses its own technology for its trucks to communicate with each other
Platooning allows for shorter gaps between trucks, meaning they use up to 10 percent less fuel by taking advantage of the slipstream created by the truck in front
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Platooning allows for shorter gaps between trucks, meaning they use up to 10 percent less fuel by taking advantage of the slipstream created by the truck in front
Traffic is also said to flow better as a result of platooning due to the constant speeds and smoother speed changes of the trucks
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Traffic is also said to flow better as a result of platooning due to the constant speeds and smoother speed changes of the trucks
The autonomous technology used for platooning can react more quickly to changes in speed by the vehicle in front than can humans
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The autonomous technology used for platooning can react more quickly to changes in speed by the vehicle in front than can humans

In what has been described as a world first, platoons of trucks have crossed national borders to complete the EU Truck Platooning Challenge. Truck platooning uses autonomous driving technologies for two or more trucks to communicate wirelessly and follow in close succession.

The challenge was conceived in 2015 and was organized by Rijkswaterstaat, a body responsible for the the design, construction, management and maintenance of roads and waterways in the Netherlands, and required coordinated cross-border planning, with different countries currently have different rules for platooning. It is hoped that the challenge will act as a springboard to help harmonize platooning rules and technology in Europe.

Platooning allows for shorter gaps between trucks on the road, as the autonomous technology used can react more quickly to changes in speed by the vehicle in front than human drivers can. This means there is more space left for other vehicles on the road and that trucks can use up to 10 percent less fuel by taking advantage of the slipstream created by the truck in front. Traffic is also said to flow better due to the constant speeds and smoother speed changes of platoons.

DAF, Daimler, Iveco, MAN, Scania and Volvo all participated in the EU Truck Platooning Challenge, starting from locations including Sweden, Germany and Belgium as early as March 29. The different platoons made their way across the continent to Rotterdam, Netherlands, where they arrived on April 6.

Traffic is also said to flow better as a result of platooning due to the constant speeds and smoother speed changes of the trucks
Traffic is also said to flow better as a result of platooning due to the constant speeds and smoother speed changes of the trucks

Each company currently uses its own technology for its trucks to communicate with each other, typically based on Wi-Fi of one form or other, but this prevents trucks from different manufacturers from platooning together.

By way of example, DAF explains that its trucks communicate using 802.11p Wi-Fi, which is designed for use in vehicles. In addition to allowing its trucks to communicate with each other, Wi-Fi-P allows the drivers to talk to one another and is used to transmit a video of what is in front of the lead trucks to those following. DAF also employs radar and cameras to inform its platooning system and says that the combination allows its trucks to respond up to 25 times more quickly than a human-being, with the trucks able to slow down before our eyes could perceive that the vehicle in front is braking.

All the trucks involved in the challenge were tested in advance and the platoons were monitored and filmed from the air so as to provide insights into how other traffic responds to platoons.

Sources: EU Truck Platooning Challenge, DAF

9 comments
Alien
While in generally very much in favour of autonomous vehicle developments, I am concerned that a tightly packed bunch of even a few large trucks such as these, could constitute a serious danger to other vehicles attempting to leave or enter a motorway. Often junctions are quite close together and vehicles leaving the motorway could be effectively blocked from joining the inside lane for several hundred metres by a group of trucks (the article says two or more), each 20m long and travelling in a closely packed albeit slow moving convoy. Frankly I'd far rather see fully autonomous trucks travelling at greater distances apart so that other vehicles can safely move between individual trucks when leaving or joining the highway. Incidentally, if one of the trucks, at the rear of the platoon, is unable to 'keep up' with its front neighbour, as is often seen on gradients, dependent on loading, etc., does the front truck slow down to maintain the close spacing and slipstream effects? In the UK it is quite often laughable - though no doubt intensely frustrating for the driver - to see a heavily loaded vehicle slowing for a gradient, whereupon the slightly faster truck behind trying to overtake is thwarted by its speed regulator as they reach the brow of the hill and the leading vehicle starts, once again, to pull away. The result can be a dangerous blocking of two lanes for a considerable distance creating bunching, braking and undue congestion in the third, often much faster moving, outside lane.
CharlieSeattle
Do not allow this. Terrorists can easily cause accidents by hacking trucks electronically or by shooting out the tires or sensors from an overpass.
JasonGregory
I hope that the rear truck has a sign of some sort to notify all road users so that they can plan their exit on to the slip road to leave carriageway safely.
Stephen N Russell
Export this to the US, be awesome, LA to NY or Miami, Boston to San Diego.
LarryStevens
Another concern is the wind that an essentially solid metal wall dozens of meters long, moving at highway speeds, would generate. How would that affect other drivers? Of course, if the other (automobile) drivers are also robots, it might not have much effect at all... Such concerns can be worked out (time of day restrictions, minimum distances in some circumstances, etc.) The safety, cost and traffic advantages mean this is when, not if.
Mel Tisdale
The whole autonomous vehicle exercise needs to be harmonised. The longer manufacturers only 'dance to their tune' the longer will it take to have a working system. If any autonomous vehicle cannot communicate with any other autonomous vehicle, the whole enterprise is doomed to fail. Heaven knows, it is going to take buckets full of luck to be a success anyway. We should by now have a situation where all cars rolling off the production lines today are 'autonomous driving ready', meaning that they have standardised provision for the fitment of any sensors that will be required, have fly-by-wire throttle control with standardised inputs and most important of all forward facing and rear facing 'dash cam' video recording provision. (If anything is going to contribute to vehicle safety is that. ) When autonomous driving (If it ever is) is sanctioned, it will be possible to bring it in across the board very quickly. All other vehicles could than be banned.
Dave Lawrence
Give me a couple of days and I'll have an AI - compliant version of "Convoy" ready to post. "That's a big 10-4 there, good buddy" "Does not compute - initiating drone strike to remove non-compliant rig"
Michael Allan
There's a need for a program to let the wi-fi from different truck companies interact and convoy on route till they near destination.
GerfriedCebrat
Here you may see an application of platooning in the urban area: http://www.energie-umwelt.at/MULE/mule_en.html