The American Center for Mobility (ACM) in Michigan is leading a major US Department of Energy-funded (DOE) program that will examine fuel-efficient platooning in mixed traffic highway environments and communication systems reliability in adverse weather scenarios, and validate simulation models.
As one of the USA’s leading connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technology research facilities, the ACM has gathered a team of organizations representing defense, academia and the public sector, to further research and test automated convoy platooning in a two-year study that will feature both military and commercial grade trucks.
The study aims to autonomously control an entire fleet of vehicles via throttle, brake and steering systems, while optimizing fuel efficiency and safety. A study of this proposed scope has not been attempted before, and if completed successfully, it will be the first of its kind in the country.
Participating organizations have led multiple years of research, development, design, build and test efforts in CAVs and include: Auburn University (Alabama), University of Michigan-Dearborn (UM-D), Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the US DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) (Colorado) and the US Army and Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC).
Some experts predict it will take 7-10 years for autonomously controlled trucks to be safely deployed. Working collaboratively, the group has identified and pooled resources to address deficiencies in prior platooning work studies that will contribute to shortening that window, while also realizing additional opportunities for testing in controlled environments and on public roads.
ACM’s purpose-built facility will be used to test increased reliability of multi-truck convoys traveling at highway speeds on elevated on-ramps, bridges, overpasses and tunnels, in mixed vehicle traffic scenarios. NREL will use extensive previous experience precisely quantifying efficiency impacts of advanced vehicle technologies to ensure confidence in the detailed measurements for the study. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, participating organizations will conclude the study with a highspeed truck convoy demonstration staged at ACM to showcase the achievements during the two-year project.
“This is an unprecedented study with extensive implications, as the project touches on many aspects of the CAV ecosystem,” said Jeff Rupp, chief technical officer for ACM. “Automated truck platooning promises increased fuel efficiency, improved safety, and greater throughput on America’s roads. This project is an important step to commercializing and safely deploying the technology.”
Kirk Steudle, MDOT director and interim CEO at the ACM, commented, “This is another example of the collaboration that makes Michigan a leader in deploying technology for advanced mobility. Truck platooning will pay safety and environmental benefits that we can only begin to imagine.”
Bernie Theisen, from the ground vehicle robotics division at TARDEC, noted, “Unmanned driving has the potential to be a breakthrough capability that can enhance our mission efficiency many times over, and the potential that advancing this work at ACM brings is extraordinary. But what we’re most excited and passionate about are the safety advances we can make here and with our other partners.”