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With the FHA’s recent admission that platooning technology is “near market-ready,” it's time to consider how platooning technology could impact freight companies bottom lines. Despite the potential regulatory hurdles, platooning could spark a new era in long haul transportation.
The concept, at least in theory, is straightforward. The lead vehicle transmits data electronically to the trucks behind it, which are able to control variables such as speed, following distance, and braking based on that data and an initial set of parameters supplied by their operators. The hope, eventually, is to outfit platoons like this to run autonomously. A recent Volvo test on California Highway 110, one of the most congested freeways in the nation, was an encouraging proof of concept.
As Peloton, Otto, Uber, Volvo, Navistar, and others compete to perfect and release platooning commercially, the economic prospects for this technology are immediately apparent. Chief among them are fuel costs. According to some early estimates, V2V (vehicle to vehicle) platooning programs could reduce fuel consumption of the lead vehicle by 4.5 percent, and the following vehicle by up to 10 percent. This lowering of overhead is compounded by the ability for one driver to prospectively be responsible for two to five trucks worth of cargo.
There is still some hesitancy within the industry regarding the safety of truck platooning, including fears about road conditions, variations in braking times, software and hardware malfunctions, and the potential for the software to be hijacked remotely. Several states have already passed legislation banning the testing and development of platooning technology, but with the massive potential upside, many believe that the reward is well worth the risk. If you have any questions regarding this cutting edge technology, contact us.
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