A two-carriage platoon of driverless trucks is currently en route to Rotterdam from Belgium as part of a challenge demonstrating the viability of automated freight transport. The heavy-duty Iveco Stralis trucks being used in the European Truck Platooning Challenge are only semi-automated, with the rear vehicles taking their lead from the front vehicle.
The technology has only been used on test tracks up to now; this is the first time it has been demonstrated on a public road. The vehicles follow each other at a set, close distance by using connectivity technology and automated driving-support systems.
The rear trucks react to the movements of the leading vehicle. If the platoon leader brakes, for example, all the other trucks in the platoon also brake. Platooning has a number of advantages as it can help make transport safer, cleaner, and more efficient.
Truck operators can use the technology to reduce their fuel consumption through improved driving practices and reduced air resistance due to the streamlining affect achieved by having the vehicles in such close proximity to one another. It is claimed to have the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 10 per cent.
It will also allow a single driver to transport significantly more goods long distance than is currently possible, significantly cutting down the number of man hours that need to be compensated for.
The overall objective of the European Truck Platooning Challenge is to accelerate the introduction of the driverless systems onto European roads by putting the subject high on the agenda of EU policy makers.
It also aims to foster European cooperation between truck manufacturers, member states, logistics service providers, road operators, road and vehicle approval authorities, research institutes and governments.
Mining giants such as Rio Tinto are already using remote-controlled lorries to shift iron ore around massive mining pits that are not open to the public.
The UK government will also provide funding to test driverless truck platoons on British motorways as part of a government drive to improve passenger journeys and encourage the technology’s proliferation in the UK.