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Platooning leverages vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and other technologies to create trains of virtually-connected vehicles traveling together at close distances for improved aerodynamic efficiencies

Level 1 automated driving coming to Class 8 truck fleets

As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeks to raise fuel-economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks through Phase 2 of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and fuel-efficiency standards, electronics and technology will play a more vital role in the effort to increase freight carrier fuel-economy levels.

One such technology will be platooning, which leverages vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and other technologies to create trains of virtually-connected vehicles traveling together at close distances for improved aerodynamic efficiencies. Traveling at a minimal distance between the trucks not only increases fuel savings for all those connected, but also increases safety through the V2V communication for acceleration, deceleration and braking needs.

Omnitracs, LLC, a global pioneer of fleet-management solutions to transportation and logistics companies, recently announced a partnership with Peloton Technology, a developer of connected and automated vehicle systems for U.S. and global freight carriers. “The partnership with Peloton brings great synergies at multiple levels,” says Kevin Haugh, Chief Strategy and Product Officer for Omnitracs. “By applying our insight and fleet orchestration across multiple carriers to platooning, we can help achieve higher levels of platooning and associated savings and safety.”

Peloton Technology has developed a platooning system for Class 8 trucks that meets SAE International’s J3016 standard for Level 1 automated driving. When the vehicles are connected, the driver is in control of the steering, while acceleration, deceleration and braking are managed by the platooning system. The driver continues to monitor the driving environment to ensure proper use and execution of the technology.

A recent study performed by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) stated that platooning could lead to “average savings of about 10% for the following vehicle and 4% for the lead vehicle.” Despite the fact that the following vehicle sees higher efficiency gains than the lead vehicle, both trucks would see fuel savings using this technology. These gains can be leveraged by any of Omnitracs’ fleet customers, even for drivers between different fleets.

Not only does Peloton’s technology increase fuel savings, it also is projected to enhance truck-driving safety. The V2V software communications allows for the following truck to brake within 0.1 seconds of the lead truck. This allows the vehicles to follow at distances as close as 40-50 ft (12-15 m) in order to maximize aerodynamic efficiency gains.

The platoons will be managed continuously by Peloton’s cloud-based Network Operations Center that will limit operations to specified roads in safe driving conditions. Omnitracs’ cloud system can identify optimal platoon matches when “vehicles will (or could) be traveling on the same highways at a similar time for a reasonable distance, and then direct vehicles to appropriate rendezvous opportunities” according to Haugh.

However, there are genuine challenges to implementing platooning technology. The NACFE study cites driver acceptance, payback and system security as possible hurdles to adoption. Ease of use will be critical to driver acceptance, which may be aided by Omnitracs at first implementing Level 1 technology rather than a fully autonomous system. Payback for platooning technology costs is more difficult to calculate, but most technology costs decrease as use spreads across the industry. System information security is a valid concern in the current state, but Peloton’s technology claims to have cutting-edge cybersecurity.

As fuel prices account for about 40% of trucking cost and the EPA raises fuel economy standards, the trucking industry will begin to increase adoption of technologies necessary to improve efficiency. This will reduce costs for all in the industry as well as reducing emissions.

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