Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) has been testing platooning systems on test tracks and select US highways, demonstrating how the new technology can improve fuel efficiency, driver productivity, convenience and safety. DTNA provided an update on the testing during the North American Commercial Vehicle Show September 25-28 in Atlanta GA.
The first step of platooning is called “pairing,” where two trucks travel in tandem at distances closer than what is possible under manual operation. A team of engineers is testing the system in trucks under controlled circumstances on Oregon and Nevada highways, driving in cooperation with officials in those states.
In addition to road testing, DTNA is conducting coordinated braking tests on a closed track at the company’s High Desert Proving Grounds in Madras OR. DTNA is preparing for a fleet trial early next year.
The platooning tests mark the latest example of DTNA’s development of industry-leading technology. In 2015, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck became the first automated commercial vehicle to be licensed to operate on an open public highway, and was evaluated along Nevada highways.
The Inspiration Truck, which demonstrated the integration of advanced driver assistance systems and highlighted the building blocks of automated driving technology, has different functions and features from platooning, but the systems share some of the same technologies.
Platooning systems offer fuel savings when two or more commercial trucks closely follow each other, lowering aerodynamic drag. The key technology in DTNA’s tests is vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, which coordinates braking to maintain spacing between the paired trucks. With V2V, when the lead truck brakes, it signals the second truck to brake, assisting the driver and keeping the distance between the two trucks consistent. V2V brake reaction times have dropped to about 0.2 or 0.3 seconds, which is much faster than humans can respond.
“Platooning holds the potential to offer significant fuel economy advantages, while assisting drivers,” said Roger Nielsen, president and chief executive officer, DTNA, who has driven the new Cascadia under platooning conditions using this technology. “To be sure, the platooning technology is not meant to replace drivers; it’s designed to help drivers.
“If we can help relieve drivers while they are on highways, they will likely become less fatigued. “That can reduce the risk of crashes and make the driving experience more comfortable.”
The technology behind platooning builds on the Detroit Assurance suite of safety systems. To improve safety for truck drivers and others on the road, Detroit Assurance provides a number of technologies to keep trucks in the middle of their lanes, adapt cruise control in congested traffic and allow truck-to-truck communication.
Detroit Assurance 4.0 was launched with Freightliner’s new Cascadia in September 2016, giving drivers full braking on stationary and moving objects, as well as warning and partial braking on pedestrians. No other Collision Mitigation System (CMS) for commercial vehicles offers these capabilities.
“Commercial development of platooning will depend on several factors, including government regulations,” Nielsen said. “The bottom line: we see a growing number of customers interested in platooning. When America is ready for platooning, we will have a proven solution.”