- Purdue University recently received a $5 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to explore fuel savings and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology for energy efficient truck platooning, Fleet Owner reported Tuesday.
- The project is part of the DOE's Next-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Autonomous On-Road Vehicles (NEXTCAR) program, which awarded $32 million to 10 projects to increase the fuel economy of tractor-trailers by 20%.
- At present, two-truck platooning systems have demonstrated a 7% increase in fuel economy. The project hopes to meet its goal by improving V2V and vehicle-to-cloud (V2C) connectivity, enabling other technologies like automated steering control, over-the-air engine optimization, look-ahead data, and next-generation platooning technologies.
One of the main problems associated with self-driving trucks is that, in highways, a perfect driver cannot escape mistakes made by imperfect drivers — so for automated vehicles to reap the safety benefits promised, they would have to travel on an exclusive highway.
Platooning promises a partial solution to this problem. The process allows self-driving trucks to travel together through V2V communication, reducing tailgating, congestion and reducing emissions as fuel consumption shrinks.
The technology has large implications for the supply chain. Having platoons travel U.S. highways would facilitate access to goods for many smaller communities. Imagine a freight train being able to access every city, without the noise or pollution associated with it. Theoretically, successful implementation coupled with larger logistics hubs and intermodal expansions could even decrease the need for rail shipments near the end of the supply chain.
Like self-driving vehicles, the technology is still being tested and regulated worldwide, but this year saw a landmark achievement for the technology: a dozen trucks traversed up to 1,200 miles and four borders in the European Union. The video below documents the trip (it's rather lengthy but the first few minutes illustrate the point).