New USA proposal brings Vehicle platooning closer

The SMMT’s Transport News reports that autonomous truck platooning has taken a step closer to reality thanks to a new proposal from the US Department of Transport (DOT) to mandate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology in new cars, vans and trucks.

While the proposal – which would require all new cars, vans and trucks to have V2V systems by 2020 – is aimed at improving safety in manually-operated vehicles, using the vehicles’ built-in safety functions to help reduce collisions, a number of US States have already provisionally sanctioned the use of platooning and are about to implement trials. One, Michigan, has already approved truck platoons for commercial use.

Peloton Technology, a Californian technology business, has said it will begin supplying packages of transponders and software to enable commercial shippers to form truck platoons later this year. It argues that platoon driving can significantly reduce fuel consumption.

The company’s CEO, Joshua Switkes, said. “We will purposely slow down our initial rollout to make sure it’s going well, but in 2018, we want to deliver as many systems as truck fleets will buy.”

Peloton’s customers will be limited to two vehicle platoons and will only operate on rural highways in States that allow properly equipped trucks to tailgate each other.

In theory, V2V transponders can help vehicles avoid collisions by signalling their locations to one another. Cadillac has announced plans to equip its vehicles with transponders, but other vehicle manufacturers have adopted a wait-and-see approach.

In 2015, platooned pairs of Peloton-equipped Peterbilt trucks were tested on Utah’s Interstate 80 to gauge their fuel savings. The lead trucks cut fuel consumption by 4.5%, while the trailing lorries saved over 10%.

Improved fuel economy will be a major lure for operators, which has helped Peloton attract some big-name financial backers. Denso Corp., which has developed its own V2V data links, has taken a financial stake in Peloton. Other investors include Magna International Inc., Volvo Group, UPS Inc. and Intel Corp.

Peloton’s technology is similar to adaptive cruise control. Each truck in a platoon is equipped with a transponder that uses short-range radio signals to transmit its location to the other vehicle.

When the system is activated, the rear truck automatically pulls closer to the lead vehicle, then maintains a gap of 35 to 80 feet. Both drivers continue to steer their vehicles while their cruise control systems adjust the speed.