Many studies have been done on the potential effects of semi trucks being able to travel in platoons. It could be more fuel-efficient, it could be safer, it could be easier on the drivers. And now, it could be coming to a highway near you. Peloton Technology has partnered with Omnitracs, a fleet management company, to provide platooning technology this year.
Peloton is going to fill pre-orders for its Class 8 truck platooning system in 2017. This will enable two semi trucks to platoon using V2V communications and radar, with one leading and one following. The system is like radar-based cruise control on steroids, with the trucks themselves sharing basic positional and driving information.
Not that the trucks are driving themselves; this is not autonomous technology. The driver is still in charge of steering and will still need to pay attention to the road. This system will work like adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking, but the V2V layer enables the follow truck to engage that automatic braking within a tenth of a second of the lead truck hitting the brakes. This, according to Peloton Technology, meets the SAE definition for Level 1 autonomy.
Each platoon is so far limited to two trucks, so you won’t run into huge convoys of linked trucks taking up miles of roadway. And the cloud-based system further limits the use of platooning to specified roads in safe driving conditions. As with all semi-autonomous systems available today, when things get tricky, the human has to take over.
The most immediate benefit, according to Peloton Technology’s calculations, is the fuel efficiency. The lead truck in one of these platooning pairs will see 4.5 percent fuel savings, and the follow truck will see 10 percent. Omnitracs customers who have the Peloton system fitted to their trucks will be able to route pelotoning pairs as often as possible.