The ENSEMBLE project (ENabling SafE Multi-Brand platooning for Europe) comes to an end on 31 March 2022 after 46 months of an intense research and piloting effort on multi-brand truck platooning by the leading European truck manufacturers, suppliers, partners and some of the best research organisations in Europe. On 23 September 2021, ENSEMBLE presented its technical achievements in a live public demonstration on the Sitges-Barcelona road. The audience witnessed, via real-time and live multi-camera video connection, the smooth platooning of seven trucks in response to different use cases. The trucks represented seven European OEM brands: DAF, DAIMLER TRUCKS, IVECO, MAN TRUCKS&BUS, RENAULT TRUCKS, SCANIA and VOLVO TRUCKS. The demo event focused on the technical implementations of platoon functionalities realised during the project. This multi-brand solution is ready for standardisation and is able to cope with all the different use cases encountered in normal traffic. A final project event is planned in March 2022, where the focus will be on the potential impacts of platooning, including socio-economic and business aspects.
A part of a series
To do full justice to the substantial results achieved and lessons learnt during the project, a series of articles has been planned to cover the different aspects and stages of our research and pilots. After the first article dedicated to the main features of ENSEMBLE, this article will analyse the progress made by ENSEMBLE in terms of research analysis and testing and their significance for the Mobility Automation roadmap.
Stepping up technology readiness levels
The ENSEMBLE project is a crucial step in the continuous multibillion Euro research and development process leading up to cooperative automated driving, for example for logistics.
The public demo event reflected the integration and realisation of all previous project efforts, demonstrating, particularly, the large steps taken forward from the 2016 European Truck Platooning Challenge (ETPC) in the Netherlands.
The ETPC event has led the way for ENSEMBLE by exposing the technical feasibility and industry capability of electronically coupling a convoy of trucks of the same brand.
We consider the ETPC result as a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6:
This result persuaded the industry leaders to further support the research on advancing truck platooning and the European Commission to raise the relevant subsidy calls for industry support. The ENSEMBLE project proposal was an excellent response to build upon the 2016 ETPC results by presenting a very consistent plan to obtain project results contributing to the breakthrough of the technology in the market. This project proposal also incorporates the engagement of several stakeholders, gathered by the so called ‘ETPC forum’. The ETPC forum monitors and regularly informs the interested audiences on the advances of the platooning technology and its market adoption in the world.
In the mobility and transport world, moving from TRL 6 to 8 is an enormous effort, as many complex questions have to be addressed. We consider the results of ENSEMBLE as shown in the public demo event as close to level 8 on the TRL scale for platooning as support function.
Beyond technological targets
ENSEMBLE also benefitted from the growing investments in truck platooning trials to cover a wide scope of research activities necessary for achieving the higher TRL and dealing with the complex mobility and transport needs and requirements.
These efforts do not purely rely on technology development, but also address subjects such as:
1) Building and sharing common know-how among the OEMs regarding the industry goals.
2) Defining and recognising commonly-accepted use cases and requirements for platoons in their traffic environment, aimed at realising a multi-brand platooning system.
3) Accepting a common development and realisation plan accepted by all OEMs that will ensure continuous engagement and commitment to favour a proper and timely execution.
4) Involving the road authorities to ensure their interests and engagement while researching realistic exemptions to allow safe platooning on their roads.
5) Identifying all potential impacts (technical, socio-economic on businesses) to formulate solutions, mitigations techniques and opportunities.
6) Ensuring the after-project success, e.g. acceptance of ENSEMBLE solutions by standardisation committees.
Can we expect a quick presence of ENSEMBLE technology in the market?
The ENSEMBLE project partners are now finalising all findings, including the impact studies. These will become available at the final event, planned in March 2022. In parallel, the project partners also expect that all involved stakeholders will further engage themselves to complete the final market entry process of the technology.
In terms of technology readiness, it is evident that a large step further is needed to get TRL 9:
ENSEMBLE is a research project and outcomes need to be verified on a large scale. In this article, only technical realisations, rather than the outcome of the other studies in live environments, are addressed. Applications with a significant amount of operational time may reveal shortcomings to be handled, but they will also prove the benefits of platooning. Official standardisation, certification and (road admission) regulations need to be in place as well. TRL9 is still a necessary step before large-scale market introduction and building up experience in the system is fundamental to reaching the next level.
Further research results are expected to be obtained and presented at the ENSEMBLE final event in March this year. Stay in touch and follow our next articles to discover more about the Project.
This project is co-funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (grant agreement No 769115). The content of this website reflects solely the views of its authors. The European Commission is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein. The ENSEMBLE consortium members shall have no liability for damages of any kind that may result from the use of these materials.