- Daimler Trucks said it would "reassess its view on platooning" as the benefit of the technology proved to be "less than expected" after analyses of pilot projects, according to a press release.
- Even in perfect platooning conditions, Daimler said fuel savings from the technology — wherein multiple trucks drive close together to cheat wind and limit fuel waste — have been subpar and are reduced even further in less-than-perfect conditions.
- As a result, the truck maker said "at least for U.S. long-distance applications, analysis currently shows no business case for customers driving platoons with new, highly aerodynamic trucks."
The news comes amid a wave of investments Daimler is making in automated truck technology — signaling platooning, compared to the other self-driving alternatives, is far from ready for prime time.
Daimler has been evaluating platooning technology since at least 2017, when it conducted tests on public highways in Oregon and Nevada. At the time, it said customer interest in automated technologies were a big reason for its R&D commitment.
Now, after a series of tests, the company is reversing course and putting its eggs in other baskets. After all, platooning is not the only option for automating truck movements.
Daimler said it would reconsider platooning within a press release about the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019, wherein the company also announced a new partially automated truck series — Freightliner Cascadia — would enter the market this year.
The Cascadia, Daimler claims, will be the first partially-automated freight truck to enter the North American market. The truck follows the Society for Automotive Engineers' definitions of levels of automation, which defines a partially-automated vehicle (level 2) as one wherein the execution of steering, acceleration and deceleration is not executed by a human driver.
Now that it has a partially automated vehicle on the market, Daimler said it would also open an R&D center in Portland, Oregon, to oversee "all aspects of developing, testing and validating automated vehicles." The company's aim is to bring highly-automated trucks (level 4) to the North American market within 10 years.
"In today’s society, there is a growing desire for safer roads and more sustainable transport solutions – and level 4 trucks can considerably contribute to that, " Daimler said in its press release. "The competitiveness of an economy is strongly correlated with the efficiency of logistics. This aspect becomes more and more relevant as global road freight volume is expected to more than double between 2015 and 2050."