In the future, technology experts say, goods will be transported across continents in platoons of driverless trucks that communicate with each other wirelessly to share information on road conditions, hazards, fuel levels, grades, and other vital aspects of long-range travel.Automation will improve fuel efficiency and safety while making long trips much easier on drivers.
That dream has come one step closer to reality due to a partnership between Omnitracs fleet management and Mountain View, California-based Peloton Technology.The company says they will begin deploying platooning technology later this year.
Peloton says its Class 8 truck platooning system lets two tracks travel while electronically linked via vehicle-to-vehicle communications and radar.One will be designated the leader and one the follower.The trucks will share basic position and driving information with each other.
Drivers will still be in command of the vehicles – this isn't a driverless tracking system.Instead, the software will function like an intelligent, constantly updated cruise control system with automatic emergency braking.
The braking will allow the following truck, for instance, to engage its brakes within a tenth of a second of the lead truck's hitting the brakes.
The platooning system supports just two trucks so far, and the technology disengages on slippery roads, in bad weather, and under other driving conditions that are less than optimal.The 2017 deployment is more a proof of concept than a fully functional platooning system.
Still, Peloton says, tests indicate that the lead truck will see a 4.5 percent reduction in fuel use and the following truck will use 10 percent less fuel.That's a significant difference.