Courtesy of Forbes, May 2, 2020
U.S. States are Allowing Automated Follower Truck Platooning

While the Automated Driving Systems (ADS) industry felt a lull in forward movement in the last year, the inclusion of automated truck platooning is growing in popularity in the U.S., with Sweden leading the way globally.

In automated follower truck platooning multiple truck rigs follow in safe drafting distance, one behind the other. Radar and vehicle-to-vehicle communications (V2V) synchronize throttle and brakes of the rear truck with the lead truck ─ with a human driver only in the lead truck. In SAE Level 1 platooning there is a driver in the follower truck, who monitors the road and responds to other traffic as needed but has feet off the pedals.

Platooning improves fuel economy (4% for the leader and 10% for followers) and is designed to operate only on multi-lane, divided, limited access highways because that’s where the large number of users are operating. Fuel savings combine with enhanced driver productivity in the lead truck and labor savings in the follower truck to greatly enhance return-on-investment.

Currently commercial Level 1 platooning is approved in 27 states and they encompass over 80% of annual U.S. truck freight traffic. In addition, several large trucking fleets have shown strong interest, but are conservatively watching the data. Globally the view is toward inter-operable platooning to leverage a market of smaller fleets in a different geographic footprint. In the U.S. FedEx and UPS, together have over 50,000 trucks in contrast to a fragmented industry in Europe.

Field tests will be announced by the USDOT Federal Highway Administration as part of a deployment assessment. Data will be collected on safety, traffic flow, fleet operations, drivers, infrastructure and more. Trucks could be on the roads sometime in 2021.

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