Six semi-autonomous trucks drove together in a convoy for 1,300 miles across Europe, proving that a platoon is more efficient than a single soldier. In an experiment called the EU Truck Platooning Challenge, trucks representing six brands from five countries were linked together using WiFi to share information about their shared route and road conditions, enabling the trucks to travel in tight formation, taking advantage of their numbers to reduce wind resistance, cut fuel consumption, and even avoid traffic jams.
If it sounds like an incredible feat, that’s because it was. This marks the first-ever truck convoy of its kind to cross multiple borders on its route—four, to be exact. The other accomplishments yielded from the platoon trek suggest we could see more of this in the future. Truck platooning calls on cooperation between different companies to produce results that benefit everyone involved, even the other ‘civilian’ drivers on the road. A convoy of trucks experienced improved fuel efficiency, by taking advantage of slipstreaming, which translates into lower carbon emissions.
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Working together, a group of traveling trucks can also reduce road congestion, as opposed to independently operated trucks that might be scattered across lanes of traffic and moving at different speeds. Transportation authorities from the five countries involved—Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands—worked in conjunction to ensure safe conditions not only for the drivers of the partially automated trucks (two for each rig), but for other drivers on the road. Having trucks drive together in close proximity is intended to reduce collisions, too, because 90 percent of traffic accidents in Europe are the result of human error.
For the highway portions of the route, the trucks traveled as a caravan. During the surface road portions of their trips, each truck operated independently and under human control. The truck platoon project was spearheaded by the Netherlands, during its EU presidency this year. Dutch authorities are strong supporters of automated transportation, and large-scale testing of automated vehicles has been allowed on Dutch roadways since 2015.
The trucks finished the platoon journey Thursday in Rotterdam, right on schedule and without incident.
Images via EU Truck Platooning Challenge