Volvo Trucks and FedEx demonstrate truck platooning
Volvo Trucks North America, together with FedEx and the North Carolina Turnpike Authority, used advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) technology to conduct on-highway truck platooning as part of ongoing research collaboration. The companies say that this marks the first public on-highway showcase of platooning technology between a major truck manufacturer and a transportation company in the U.S.
“Volvo Trucks has long supported platooning because it benefits freight companies and professional drivers alike through safer, more fuel-efficient operations,” said Per Carlsson, acting President of Volvo Trucks North America. “We continue preparing for deployment of trucks with greater vehicle-to-vehicle communication capabilities that support higher levels of ADAS. We know these technologies will be part of our future, but exact timing depends on many things, namely regulations, infrastructure, safety standards, and market demand.”
The “platoon” consisted of three trained, professional truck drivers in Volvo VNL tractors, each pulling double 28 ft (8.5 m) trailers. Through CACC, a wireless vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology, the tractors and trailers remained in constant communication. The tractors and trailers traveled at speeds of up to 62 mph (100 km/h) while keeping a time gap of 1.5 seconds, maintaining a closer distance than what is typical for on-highway tractors. Staged and unplanned vehicle cut-ins demonstrated how the technology handles common traffic situations.
The demonstration is the result of an ongoing research collaboration. Since April 2018, three Volvo VNL tractors have been paired with various combinations of FedEx trailers to simulate real-world routes and trailer loads. The potential benefits of platooning that are being studied during this collaborative research include faster responses to hard braking while maintaining safety and fuel efficiency.
The vehicle-to-vehicle communication system helps reduce the reaction time for braking and enables vehicles to follow closer, automatically matching each other’s speed and braking. The companies say that the technology is meant to serve as an aid—not a replacement—for skilled professional truck drivers.
Volvo Trucks and FedEx plan to continue developing the Volvo CACC technology with the goal of continuing to learn about the potential benefits offered by vehicle platooning. Additionally, this advanced testing will allow the participants to adapt to the technological and regulatory developments that will ultimately determine the commercial viability of platooning technology in the U.S.