AASHTO Journal

Major Heavy-Truck Maker Says It is Testing Platoons on Oregon, Nevada Highways

Daimler Trucks North America said it is testing the use of "digitally connected trucks on selected highways in Oregon and Nevada," and plans to begin joint tests in 2018 with cargo fleet customers under real-world conditions.

The company announced the development at the North American Commercial Vehicle show in Atlanta, and said it has begun the tests with two-truck platoons in which the electronics allow the second truck to closely follow the lead vehicle and thereby cut fuel costs while boosting shipment efficiency.

capitol0816.jpg Through its widely used Freightliner and Western Star brands, Daimler claims to hold a 40 percent share of the North American heavy cargo truck market.

Daimler said it is "reacting to an increasing customer interest in solutions for automated and connected driving in commercial transport. In a joint effort with fleet customers DTNA is working to understand how platooning technology may impact fleet operations (e.g. dispatch, logistics, driver training)."

It also said it began the initiative with successful trials of the technology on its truck proving ground in Madras, Ore.

CEO Roger Nielsen said in Sept. 25 press release that DTNA sees "growing customer interest in platooning" to allow for "more efficiency and safety."

Although some in the industry foresee the day when the automated systems can lead to freight-hauling trucks that operate without drivers, manufacturers said today's systems have various driver-assist features that can automatically correct steering for lane control, and brake or accelerate as needed to keep in line with the lead unit.

Nielsen said the platooning technology DTNA is testing "is not meant to replace drivers – it's designed to help drivers."

Industry experts note that the technology is also designed to allow drivers of cars and other vehicles in the passing lane to move in between the platooning trucks as necessary, and the trucks will then close back up when the other vehicles move back out.

The Daimler announcement closely follows a Sept. 14-15 test by the Federal Highway Administration of a three-truck platoon on crowded Interstate 66 at Centreville, Va., outside of Washington, D.C.

Photo / Daimler press release

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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