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Truck platooning a reality by 2020?

April 4, 2016

German truck manufacturers are presenting new ideas to make more efficient, autonomous driving a reality on German highways. They include connecting trucks via Wi-Fi to help them drive closer together and utilize drafts.

Trucks in a traffic jam
Image: Reuters

The company MAN unveiled plans for promoting the concept of autonomous driving for trucks on Monday. The centerpiece of its strategy would be a scheme to make use of aerodynamics and encourage more drafting between vehicles driving in convoys, the company said.

This would be facilitated by inter-vehicle communication that could take place over WiFi networks. MAN said having vehicles that communicated with one another would help to reduce traffic congestion.

The head of MAN's heavy-duty vehicles arm Andreas Renschler said in a statement that better truck drafting would be "technically thinkable and feasible" by 2020 with the help of technology. But he added it would also take a good deal of political will to help provide a suitable digital infrastructure for this project to work.

Picture it!: A self-driving truck by Mercedes

Lots of fine-tuning left to do

Attending MAN's presentation Monday, German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt was confident "autonomous driving would spread as fast as smartphones."

MAN joined the EU Truck Platooning Challenge - "platooning" is another term for drafting - alongside other truck makers such as Scania, Volvo and DAF.

Apart from avoiding traffic jams, autonomous driving is also meant to drastically reduce the number of accidents with heavy-duty vehicles involved.

Thirdly, the aim of the project is to eventually save up to 10 percent of the trucks' fuel use as vehicles that drive close together in convoys, with only slight gaps between them, use considerably less fuel while in each other's draft.

hg/cjc (Reuters, dpa)