Truck platooning trial coming to Australia

The WA government has approved truck platooning trials in the state

Truck platooning trial coming to Australia
Truck platooning has already been trialed in Europe, with Scania kicking off the start of the EU Truck Platooning Challenge 2016.


A government-backed initiative of industry and commercial partners is bringing truck platooning to Western Australia in the form of a feasibility study.

Announced at the 23rd World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) yesterday, the trial will analyse the impacts and requirements of vehicle automation in the state with a goal of releasing the technology into the local transport and freight industry.

Truck platooning, a form of truck convoy where all vehicles are in constant communication with each other to synchronise speed, braking and positioning, has been making strides in Europe and North America with on-road trials gaining governmental approval but has yet to impact Australian road users.

Under the technology, a lead truck assumes control of the convoy or platoon through vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communication and the trailing vehicles fall into lock-step.

Depending on the trailers used and the gap between the vehicles, which can range from 1.5 seconds to 0.6 seconds, the reduction in drag for the following vehicles can realise fuels savings from between 4 and 12 per cent.

The new trial, which will focus on WA, is the culmination of a partnership between US-based automation and connected vehicle technology company Peloton Technology, the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI), Telstra, the Western Australian Road Transport Association (WARTA), and the government of Western Australia.

While details of how and when the trial will take place are yet to be announced, the government approval for fleet trials marks the first of its kind in Australia. 

With Peloton Technology set to make its driver assistance truck platooning system commercially available in 2017 in the US, it may be fair to assume the trial will take place next year.

Peloton’s two-truck platooning solution promises a fuel saving of 7.5 per cent and uses an encrypted wireless link to match the vehicles. 

Both drivers retain control of their vehicle’s steering under the system and are also provided with an in-cab truck-to-truck video stream to heighten their awareness of their surrounding and receive contextual over-the-horizon alerts.

Welcoming the opportunity to bring the technology to WA, Peloton Technology CEO Joshua Switkes says "it is great to see Australia join the growing list of markets worldwide that are adopting emerging technologies that enhance vehicle safety and efficiency."

"ADVI and the other partners coming together provide Peloton with a great gateway to work with the key Australian industry, fleet and government partners needed for us enter this important new market," Switkes says.

According to ADVI, it recognised Peloton "as a key collaborator in investigating the use of these systems in Australia" as it sees "first generation driver-assistive truck platooning as a promising technology for near-term deployment".

Alongside the significant fuel economy gains for vehicles in the platoon, truck platooning also has potential safety, social and environmental benefits, ADVI centre for excellence executive director Rita Excell says.

"Australia’s driving conditions and the long distances of our truck routes between urban centres make truck platooning a particularly promising technology to enhance the industry," Excell says.

"In addition, truck platooning mixed with higher levels of automation can bring greater safety, efficiency and productivity to fleets operating on Australia’s extensive network of private roads.

"We look forward to holding joint discussions involving Peloton and Australian trucking fleets to identify specific opportunities to apply this technology going forward." 

In order for the trials to take place, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication is also required, a task facilitated for Peloton in Australia by Telstra.

Seeing the trial as an "opportunity to explore the adaption of truck platooning technology in Australia," Telstra enterprise mobility global enterprise & services director Agnes Sheehan says Telstra’s 4G and future 5G networks "will underpin Peloton Technology’s systems in Australia, providing the secure exchange of information to Peloton’s centrally managed Network Operations Centre."

"Transformational innovation within the Transport Sector is happening at a rapid pace and will continue to evolve, it’s working collaboratively which will enable acceptance and adaption within this sector," she says.

Representing the transport industry, WARTA says the trial is a great move for the state.

"This partnership represents a real opportunity for our WA industry to participate at the forefront of road transport industry innovation, safety and productivity," WARTA spokesman Cam Dumesny says.


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