Placing drivers at the heart of innovation

Apr 14, 2020
Placing drivers at the heart of innovation

Improved road safety, fuel savings and advanced driver assistance in congestion and hilly terrain are just some of the concrete benefits that European and US truck platooning can offer. This disruptive technology, its impact on driver shortage and the real opportunities it gives the sector was presented in a webinar organized by ERTICO Academy. 

Platooning is the technology that allows trucks to be connected using direct vehicle-to-vehicle communication. 

“Deployment of platooning on European roads is an important technological development that can assist global competitiveness in the freight sector, giving Europe the potential to address several challenges that the industry faces today. One of these is driver shortage, which is predicted to double in the next decade,” says Frank Daems, Senior Manager at ERTICO – ITS Europe and member of the consortium of ENSEMBLE. Mr Daems is also co-chair of ETPC, which was formed in 2016 with around 60 Partners. “With the ETPC platform we facilitate the early deployment of the platooning technology and the ETPC’s recent assessment of the ENSEMBLE ‘platoon support function’ shows it is fully in line with stakeholders’ expectations. ETPC established its VISION 2022, a multi-stakeholder shared view of how this technology can hit the road in 2022,” he continues. The ‘ENSEMBLE platoon support function’ will be demonstrated live at ENSEMBLE’s final event in 2021.

With this European co-funded project, OEMs (DAF, DAIMLER, IVECO, MAN, SCANIA and VOLVO) and suppliers work on paving the way for the adoption of multi-brand truck platooning in Europe. 

“ENSEMBLE pushes for a harmonisation of multi-brand specifications with the goal of leading to standards for multi-brand truck interoperability. Not only does this lead to great improvement in road safety, it also increases the transport and mobility efficiency and has potential to reduce emissions – which are very topical aspects when discussing societal impact”, says Marika Hoedemaeker, ENSEMBLE coordinator and Senior Project Manager at TNO, the Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research.

ENSEMBLE defines two levels relevant for specifying platooning functions: support and autonomous function. For both levels, the driver is a key element. This important step in safety will benefit the driver, the truck and its cargo, as well as other road users. Hauliers and fleets, buying these new trucks, radiate a strong safety image, attracting responsible customers and, of course, drivers. In the autonomous function, platooning can lead to an improvement in driver productivity and a possible solution for current driver shortage problem, especially in confined areas. “We still have some research on the behaviour of drivers to do. Currently, we are focusing on developing the two platooning functions. I believe follow-up to this research is needed, in which the driver reaction is tested and analysed”, concludes Hoedemaeker.

A pioneer in platooning research, the United States has already come a long way. “With our large interstate highway network, we have currently 27 States that allow commercial deployment of driver assistive truck platooning on multi-lane, divided, limited access highways, with more to come soon”, explains Richard Bishop, Advisor at Peloton Technology and second vice chair of the American Trucking Association’s Automated Driving Study Group. Peloton Technology is an automated vehicle technology company based in the US, working on solving the two biggest challenges facing the trucking industry: accidents and fuel use. “Since 2018, Level 1 platooning has seen interest with several U.S. shippers and customers fleets through pilot activity , and new driverless follower systems (“AutoFollow”) are also in development. With the driver’s experience in mind, professional drivers remain at the heart of the future of automated trucking, whilst at the same time increasing driver productivity and safety. The substantial fuel benefits are the prime motivator for fleet managers to purchase first generation platooning-capable trucks; platooning systems will also help to drive adoption of active truck safety systems, which are not currently required for U.S. commercial vehicles, but necessary for platooning,” says Bishop. Unlike Europe, US customer fleets don’t prioritise multi-brand truck platooning: “The reason for this is that although US fleets have multiple brands within their fleet, they have so many trucks of a single brand that they can go to market with just one brand, allowing the market to start much earlier”, points out Bishop.

Truck platooning technology has the potential to become a global success story. This webinar on truck platooning was important in highlighting societal benefits and identifying opportunities for Europe to learn from the experience in the US.

Watch the full session