In Europe freight traffic is shifting more and more to the road. But long queues of trucks often hinder car traffic, especially if the trucks keep a safe distance to the vehicle in front. Truck platooning technology could be the answer to this problem.
It can be seen as the equivalent of the peloton in cycling; commercial vehicle linking together to make transport swifter and more efficient (in fact the word ‘peloton’ is derived from the word ‘platoon’). Truck platooning uses connectivity technology to achieve this. The potential benefits are many including: a reduction in C02 emissions; improved safety on motorways and the speedier delivery of goods.
Austria is one of the EU countries at the forefront of this technology. It’s currently being tested by its flagship project Connecting Austria.
“A truck platoon consists of two to a maximum three trucks, which run at a distance of 15 to 20 meters behind each other and are coordinated by means of a technical control system,” explains Elke Schrittesser, Senior Manager Innovation at the Institute for Advanced Energy Systems & Transport Applications at Graz, which is one of Connecting Austria’s partners.
She adds: “The trucks in the platoon are connected via WLAN technology. Information is constantly being exchanged between the trucks, such as the status of the platoon, speed, acceleration, deceleration and GPS position. In Connecting Austria, always a driver is always sitting in the rear and front vehicle with his hands on the steering wheel.”
One of the big advantages of this technology is the potential to help protect the environment and reduce fuel consumption. But Schrittesser believes there is still much work to be done in this area by Connecting Austria.
“Connecting Austria examines the impact of truck platooning on traffic safety, traffic efficiency, the environment and logistics. As part of our international analysis, it became apparent that the potential savings in fuel consumption are communicated very differently. Numbers between 7 and 15% are published.”
“Driving 600 km straight on a motorway without disconnecting the truck platoon would certainly be effective, but does not correspond to reality in Austria. Therefore, Connecting Austria faces the challenge of investigating truck platoons in complex environments.”
Connecting Austria’s project focuses mainly on the link between the highway and the city. It deals with four applications: motorway entrances; motorway construction sites; motorway exits and traffic light – regulated crossings. “We examine the entire path of a logistics provider from its distribution center via the motorway to its freight distribution center at the outskirts of a city. Thus, we will examine the effects of a truck platoon on this entire route.”
Connecting Austria hopes to build on the international successes from previous projects such as the ITS Corridor Project and further expand its pioneering role and its knowledge in industry and research. Watch out for developments in autonomous platooning at some stage in the future.
Picture courtesy of Connecting Austria 2018.