Automated or driverless truck platooning

Automated or driverless truck platooning is one truck following closely behind another using sensors and automated driving technology. Long-haul trucks that follow 40 or 50-feet apart during highway travel save fuel and reduce emissions.

Key characteristics

Setting/Location

Corridor, Suburban

Cost

Technology

Collaboration

WSDOT regions

Other names

  • Truck platooning
  • Semi-autonomous truck platooning
  • Self-driving truck platooning
  • Platooning

Strategy description

Automated or driverless truck platooning uses sensors and automated driving features so trucks can link up and follow each other closely—40 or 50-feet apart—on interstates and highways. The truck at the front of the platoon acts as the leader, with the vehicles behind reacting and adapting to any changes.

By using automated driving systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communications, trucks can follow closely to one another, allowing the trucks to save fuel and reduce emissions.

When to use this strategy

Automated or driverless truck platooning is best suited for long-haul trucks on interstates and highways where trucks can link up automatically for portions of their trip. Platooning requires the use of automated driving systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communications that enable trucks to follow closer than would be safe with human drivers.

As of early 2019, truck platooning was still in the testing and development stage. Those considering truck platooning should monitor test status, including testing in the State of Washington. In January 2019, Daimler abandoned truck platooning and explained that saving 5 percent of fuel was not enough benefit to pursue the strategy (1).

Strategy benefits:

  • Trucks that drive closer together have significantly reduced air-drag friction leading to better fuel efficiency and less harmful carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Because braking is automatic and immediate, the trucks following the lead vehicle need less time to react than a human drivers would need, creating a safer driver experience.

What you need in order to implement

Planning needs:

  • State regulations that allow platooning

Equipment needs:

  • Automated driving systems onboard the trucks
  • Onboard vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology

Learn more about this strategy

Works cited:

(1) Shields, Nicholas. "The trucking industry is split over whether platooning is still a viable technology", Business Insider, 2019.
https://www.businessinsider.com/daimler-abandons-platooning-2019-1

About key characteristics

Location notes:

Truck platooning is designed for long-haul trucks that link to one another in a platoon for a portion of their trip on major interstates and highways.

Cost notes:

Cost to public agencies is low because no physical infrastructure is needed. Platooning relies on automated driving systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communications onboard the trucks.

Technology notes:

While the amount of technology needed is low, the technology is in early development stages and needs further testing.

Collaboration notes:

Collaboration is required to ensure that state rules and regulations allow for automated or driverless truck platooning. Today, most states have rules that block platooning, but recent trends are changing these regulations to allow for truck platooning. Since platooning is used for long-haul trucks, having regulations that allow platooning across state borders would be necessary to accommodate interstate application.

Conditions this strategy addresses