Friday, April 8, 2016

EU Truck Platoon Challenge Sees HGVs Connected by WiFi Cross Europe

Six Truck Makers Extend Autonomous Vehicle Trials
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – An idea hatched in the Netherlands, this week saw the conclusion of the most extensive trial yet of ‘Truck Platooning’ whereby a column of HGVs drive closely behind each other while communicating wirelessly. The autonomous vehicles link to the lead truck meaning their reaction times are theoretically down to zero, making braking instantaneous whilst reducing drag and cutting fuel costs by up to 25%.

The six manufacturers which opted to take up this weeks ‘EU Truck Platooning Challenge’ included Volvo, DAF, Daimler, Iveco, MAN and Scania with vehicles starting in Sweden, Germany and Belgium headed for Rotterdam with each country having its own regulations regarding this new convoy system, and with each truck maker having to complete separate applications every time a national border was crossed. Thankfully the requirement for truck platoons to carry dedicated number plates in certain countries has been scrapped, and stopping at the border to change plates is now a thing of the past.

The WiFi systems employed by each manufacturer was individual, thus precluding one maker’s truck interfering with, or being used by, another. The Dutch remain in the vanguard of platooning, the idea was originally that of the Rijkswaterstaat (roads ministry) part of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, with plans now afoot to use the system for regular convoys emanating from the Port of Rotterdam, and several companies are currently discussing the future use of the technique with the national government. The Royal Dutch Touring Club (ANWB) meanwhile is helping with a study aimed at involving the wider use of the system and its impact on other motorists.

Melanie Schultz van Haegen, Infrastructure and Environment Minister, said that the trial, which started on March 29, was the first major test of the technique. The real purpose of the journey was to highlight the changes required in European transportation legislation that would facilitate the introduction of platooning as, despite advances, legislation in the various countries governing things such as the driving distance between trucks, still differs. She went on to comment:

”Truck platooning allows for more efficient and cleaner transport. Such vehicles can also make a contribution to road safety as most accidents are now caused by human error. The Challenge has shown that there is a lot not only which can be done, but also made clear that we need better coordination between the European legislatures in order to allow large-scale cross-border transport of goods by such truck platoons.”

The trial platoons were monitored from the air to study performance and the effect on other road users. Three trucks supplied by Volvo made the trip from Gothenburg to Rotterdam and Anders Kellström, Project Manager for the Volvo Group’s participation in the EU Truck Platooning Challenge, said:

“It has been fantastic to see people’s reactions. In Denmark, families were sitting with picnics along the side of the road to see us drive by. We drove in a convoy for over 1,500 kilometres on public roads and gained a lot of great experience, not just about the technology but also about the traffic environment. Everything went totally according to plan, which is a great feeling.”

His colleague Andreas Svenungsson, Head of Public Affairs at the Volvo Group, continued:

“We have now created a unique collaboration in terms of future transport solutions that goes beyond both national and organizational boundaries. We note that there are varying interpretations of laws and provisions in different countries with regard to self-driving vehicles, but we feel that the tangible collaboration we have now commenced is an important step toward increased harmonization and more efficient transportation.”