FedEx and Volvo announced successful public testing of their new “platooning” technology last month, which took place on a highway in North Carolina.
The technology is designed to allow for semi trucks to improve safety and save fuel through digital synchronisation, which locks them together in a close driving formation. This is supposed to reduce aerodynamic drag and thus fuel consumption.
In platooning, the convoy is controlled by a driver in the lead truck: if the lead driver brakes, for example, so do the other trucks. The trials involved three Volvo VNL vehicles, each with a human driver, and common traffic situations such as unplanned vehicle cut-ins were staged.
The companies obtained a state license from North Carolina and hope the tests will give them the data they need to persuade other states, and the federal government, to do the same.
“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 [advanced driver assistance systems]. 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.”
“Armed with hard facts and data, we hope to make our case,” said Keith Brandis, vice president for product planning at Volvo North America. “The business benefits of this technology will be proven in the coming months.”
Platooning is already being tested in Europe. Other companies conducting similar tests include Daimler, Navistar International, and Tesla.