The US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has conducted a two-day demonstration of three-truck platoons on I-66 in Centreville, Virginia, showcasing the results of a four-year research project to test the effectiveness of state-of-the-art driving and communications technologies.
Trucks represent the most commonly used mode of transportation for freight shipping, moving 63% of the total tonnage transported in the USA. With the volume of freight moved annually by trucks predicted to more than double over the next 25 years, federal officials expect truck platooning to dramatically enhance mobility on the country’s highways. The demonstration involved partially automated trucks that were not driverless, and used professional drivers. Truck platooning uses vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology to allow trucks to follow each other more closely, at about one second apart, and travel in a more coordinated fashion.
While various aspects of truck platooning have been studied for years, the FHWA’s Exploratory Advance Research program has taken testing to new levels with the addition of Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control (CACC) technology, which integrates V2V communications to the adaptive cruise control capability now available in new vehicles. The connectivity allows trucks to operate more smoothly as a unit, reducing and controlling the gaps between vehicles.
The demonstrations came in the same week that USDOT and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced new guidelines for automated driving systems (ADS). The new guidance offers a more flexible approach to advancing the innovation of automated vehicle safety technologies. USDOT is focused on collecting and sharing the best ideas and approaches to developing and testing automated vehicle technologies and to ensuring that no requirements or regulatory hurdles exist or are introduced that could delay new vehicle safety advances.
“The future of innovative new technology to help our drivers navigate the road more safely is so full of promise; it’s a future where vehicles increasingly help drivers avoid crashes,” said US Transportation Secretary Elaine L Chao. “As technology advances, safety is a primary concern of the Department, but the benefits of these driving technologies extend beyond safety, including productivity and efficiency on our roads.”
Acting Federal Highway Administrator Brandye Hendrickson added, “These new technologies have the ability to increase capacity on our highways and make freight transportation more efficient. With innovations like these, we can get more out of the highway system we already have, relieve traffic congestion, and reduce costs to the freight industry.”