Report: Testing accelerates as autonomous trucking heads for open road

Updated Oct 27, 2018
Three Volvo VNL trucks in a platoon along North Carolina highway 540.

New federal guidelines will almost certainly “turbocharge the testing process” and ramp up the competition between companies that have logged tens of thousands of miles in testing to ready autonomous trucks for the open road, according to a national news magazine story.

In an Oct. 15, story, U.S. News and World Report details how automated truck developers such as Embark and TuSimple have made freight deliveries. The computer takes control on the highway, overseen by a human “safety driver,” to do this.

The Trump administration has indicated “that it plans a light touch in regulating autonomous trucks – a move that could overrule state efforts to keep unmanned vehicles off their roads,” Staff Writer Alan Neuhauser also notes with the article.

It describes how some companies have successfully tested “platooning” and the savings possible to today’s mounting freight costs, which are of increasing concern to dealers. With platooning, to reduce drag and save fuel a truck with a human driver leads a convoy of as many as five computer-driven trucks following at a close distance.

And as a recent Equipment World article notes, Texas A&M Transportation Institute has been studying impacts of truck drafting, or platooning, on pavements and their resiliency. The trucking industry is working with Texas DOT on the studies for platooning.

“The technologies promise big savings, with driverless trucks potentially slashing 40 percent from the cost of long-haul freight – much of it in saved labor expenses – and platooning cutting 10 to 15 percent in fuel costs,” U.S. News and World Report says.