Platooning Trucks: A Virtual Reality?

A new Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V)  technology-based system aims to boost safety, save fuel and reduce emissions by “platooning” trucks, reports Fleet Owner magazine.

As David Cullen reports, to platoon trucks is to efficiently operate them on a highway in close proximity– one following after another at a pre-set distance via radar and wireless communication to form a virtual “road train.”

According to the company behind the system, the  operational concept leverages electronic controls and the automatic processing of shared data via V2V systems to decrease both truck fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions, while also reducing stress on truckers by easing their workload at the wheel.

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Menlo Park, CA-based Peloton Technology is the firm walking point for truck platooning. It’s developing a system that uses radar-based collision mitigation equipment and V2V communication technology to enable the close-in platooning of two tractor-trailers. Two at a time, though, is just for now.

Josh Switkes, PhD, Peloton’s CEO, told FleetOwner that implementing the one-two platooning of trucks by fleets where operationally feasible would improve highway safety by “electronically augmenting the skills of truck drivers.”

What’s more, he said platooning would greatly decrease fuel consumption as aerodynamic drag is slashed whenever two trucks are closely and consistently following each other going down the road.

The brains of the Peloton system is V2V technology that enables the following combination to respond to the deceleration/braking of the lead rig in a mere few hundredths of a second.

Switkes characterized that response as coming “dramatically faster” than any human driver could react.

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Peloton emphasizes the systems is not about replacing the driver, which is why the trucks’ operators always retains full control of steering and the driver has full control about taking over the operation during challenging whether or other conditions requiring oversight.

Back in November, Peloton engaged the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) as an independent third-party outfit to help plan, execute and validate an unbiased fuel-efficiency test of the truck-platooning system.

NACFE reported that rigs supplied by truckload carrier CR England were electronically “connected” to remain 36 ft apart while operating at 64 mph on Interstate 80 west of Salt Lake City. The results showed a 10% fuel consumption reduction for the trailing tractor-trailer and a 4.5% reduction for the lead combination.

Separate internal testing by Peloton of trucks platooned with less than 36 ft of separation chalked up even lower fuel-consumption numbers than those scored in the controlled test.

“Our platooning system is available now to fleets taking part in our piloting process,” advised Switkes. “And by late next year, we expect to have commercial systems on the market in quantity.”

Yves Provencher, director of Performance Innovation Transport (PIT), in Montreal told FleetOwner that while platooning may be just around the corner, for it to succeed “fleets will have to create the business model to implement it cost-effectively.”

On the other hand, Provencher said fleet owners should “watch the development of platooning closely, as it’s no longer science fiction.

For full Fleet Owner article, click here

See video below for a full webinar on V2V platooning trucks technology:

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