Semi-autonomous truck convoys converge on Rotterdam for European ‘platooning’ challenge
Tue 5 Apr 2016
Five countries are sending six brands of semi-autonomous truck convoys to Rotterdam for the ‘Truck Platoon Challenge’ – the first public European trial for haulage ‘platooning’, wherein several trucks connected via automated systems effectively become a single ‘road train’.
The countries participating are Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands, with companies sending contender technology to the contest by public roads at distances which cover up to 1,250 miles, crossing four national borders.
Mercedes-Daimler have recorded the process of a lorry driver switching from manned to autonomous ‘slip streaming’, wherein the driver’s truck comes under control of the manned vehicle at the front of the convoy. The trailing drivers engage the connection systems which brings the vehicles under automated control and guides them to a predefined 10km distance from each other, with the ‘guardian’ driver able to watch the view from the manned vanguard:
The objective for all six competitors is the port of Rotterdam’s APM terminals; however it’s not a race but rather an assessment, with traffic authorities in all affected countries participating and observing the autonomous systems.
The event can be viewed in a live stream tomorrow from the European Truck Platooning website.
Truck platooning is intended to reduce CO2 emissions, improve traffic flow and save on fuel, achieved partly by the increased aerodynamic flow of convoys.
The Netherlands is seeking a premier place as a European testbed for autonomous traffic, conducting exemption tests for semi/autonomous vehicles at the RDW Test Centre at Lelystad. The UK government, keen to mop up legislative refugees such as Google, also announced new measures today to encourage autonomous vehicle testing as part of a £150 million highways initiative.
Volvo hit the headlines five years ago with some of the earliest platooning trials, during which a conventional car ‘shadowed’ a truck as part of the European Commission research project Sartre (Safe Road Trains for the Environment).