Platooning projects around the world
Of course, it is not only MAN that is making progress in platooning. Daimler Trucks North America, for example, is testing the use of digitally linked trucks with its Freightliner brand on selected highways in the US states of Oregon and Nevada. In the last week of January 2018, Daimler Trucks used its Asian vehicle brand – Fuso – to test the technology on public roads in the metropolitan area of Japan’s capital, Tokyo.
And in another example, Scania launched in January 2017 a multi-annual project, coordinated by the Singapore Ministry of Transport and port authority, involving an autonomous truck convoy on public roads transporting containers from one terminal to another in the port of the Southeast Asian city state. The initiative aims to address the increasing transportation needs and the shortage of land, not to mention of the shortage of drivers. Singapore is therefore used as “virtual test area” for new vehicle concepts designed to enhance productivity and road safety, optimize road capacity and enable new mobility concepts.
Together with German logistics group DHL and other companies, DAF Trucks is currently taking part in a two-year platooning field test in the UK, which is being led by the British Transport Research Laboratory. In this truck platooning test, the British government hopes to gain more experience with this semi-autonomous truck technology, which has the potential to considerably increase the efficiency of road goods transport operations. Driving in an electronically linked network enables the vehicles involved to follow one another closely in a convoy, which has a positive impact on fuel consumption and, in turn, CO2 emissions, safety and the flow of traffic. The use of advanced driver assistance systems is also helping to increase road safety, which is the overall aim of the project.
Identifying truck platoons
Even in this early test phase as well as in real-life operation on the roads, there is one extremely important question: How will other road users be able to tell when a truck is part of a platoon? Simple: The trucks will be specially identified. The best method appears to be to attach an electronic display to the rear of the vehicle, a solution not dissimilar to the rear marker panels – required in accordance with UNECE R 70 – that are already a familiar sight on our roads and, in Germany, form the basis for labeling long trucks. This panel would automatically display clear, easy-to-understand information. The display could state, for example, that a truck platoon comprising three, four or five vehicles is traveling ahead.
The display could also state that the truck on which the display is attached is truck 3, 4 or 5 in the platoon. The information displayed and the remaining distance to the leading truck in the platoon would then need to change accordingly on the truck that is being overtaken. The display would then need to be switched off before a vehicle or a combination of vehicles from the platoon network moves back into a lane or after a vehicle or a combination of vehicles from the platoon leaves a lane. In any case, such a display would need to be discussed and be suitable for use in international transport operations in order to draw enough attention to the particular multi-vehicle combination, provide flowing traffic with the necessary information and ensure that drivers adapt their behavior accordingly.