Daimler Trucks tests truck platooning on US roads

Truck drivers speculate that companies that plan to use platooning technology and autonomous driving do not understand the complexities of truck driving and variables on the road.

Daimler Trucks North America LLC said on Monday that they have received the go-ahead from the Oregon Department of Transportation to begin testing platoon technology on Oregon roads.

What is platooning?

Platooning is when two trucks drive approximately 30-feet apart while communicating wirelessly to accelerate and brake in unison – in an effort to cut aerodynamic drag in and to lower fuel costs. Long haul trucks operate at fairly consistent speeds, making it easier for them to be able to travel in a platoon than passenger vehicles.

Along with cutting fuel costs, platooning is also believed to be a safer method of travel. Supporters of the technology say that the trucks traveling in a platoon formation will enhance driving efficiency and highway safety.

A major worry when considering truck platoons is the reaction time in situations of emergency. The space between platooning trucks is too close for a human driver to prevent an accident with only seconds to respond.

“Immediately when the first truck starts breaking, the rear truck can apply the breaks within a hundredth of a second compared to the human reaction time of 1 or two seconds,” Joshua Switkes, Owner of Peloton Technology, told KOLOTV.

Engineers of autonomous trucks not only think that this sort of tailgating would be much safer than trucks traveling independently, but they also make it evident that platoons could save the trucking industry thousands. The wind resistance avoided by the trucks in line could save each truck a minimum of 10-percent in fuel costs.

The beginning stages of testing

Daimler Trucks plans to soon begin testing platoon technology in 2 connected Cascadias. This method of pairing trucks together is hoped to be the beginning of platooning multiple trucks together across the state of Oregon.

The tests are set to begin in Madras, Oregon, according to Reuters. An exact date for testing to begin has not been released.

It has not been made clear whether these initial tests will have human drivers in the cab of each truck, or if the trucks will operate autonomously.

Competitors

Daimler Trucks is not the first to begin testing platooning technology. Other companies like Peloton, Tesla, Caterpillar, and Freightliner have begun similar innovative testing.

Fleet management services provider Omnitracs announced in February that it will partner with start-up Peloton to offer semi truck platooning technology.

Similarly, Tesla hoped to test autonomous semi-trucks in states like Nevada and California; however, they were unsuccessful in convincing either state to approve such testing. Reports still indicate that Tesla is preparing to release official an electric semi-truck that will operate autonomously this September.

Simple idea, difficult execution

Daimler Trucks labels themselves as cutting edge, people-focused innovators.

“Engineering innovation: it’s a simple idea, but its execution is anything but. Realized in the perpetual pursuit of industry-leading quality—and augmented by the certainty that everything we do can always be improved—at Daimler Trucks North America, this dedication to engineering innovation is embedded into our DNA. It’s what drives us to impact the economy and the world.”

Daimler further explains, “Global economies would cease to function without commercial vehicles. Every day, on every continent, trucks deliver critical, life-sustaining and lifestyle-enhancing materials. From food, clothing, medical, educational and building supplies to consumer vehicles and products, keeping safe and reliable trucks on the road impacts everyone, everywhere.”

Although companies may recognize the importance of commercial vehicles and the trucking industry, truck drivers speculate that companies that plan to use platooning technology and autonomous driving do not understand the complexities of truck driving and variables on the road.

To read more about Tesla’s autonomous truck, click here.

To read more about Peloton’s Truck Platooning Tech, click here.