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Automated platooning – step by step

7 MARCH 2018

Platooning with increasingly autonomous vehicles and systems will be a cornerstone of tomorrow’s sustainable transport system. Step-by-step developments are already under way.


With the development of advanced assisting systems and connectivity, platooning or convoy driving has gained new momentum. Another key factor is the increasing interest in platooning shown by international bodies such as the EU, as well as new legislation being prepared in several countries to facilitate the testing of different levels of autonomy of vehicles on public roads.


When first conceived, platooning was seen mostly as a way for operators to reduce fuel consumption, says Gunnar Tornmalm, Head of Predevelopment, Automation, Scania Research and Development.


“But today the discussion has shifted towards what can be achieved with platooning from a broader perspective and how it can contribute to a sustainable transport system,” says Tornmalm.


The rapid development of connectivity, sensors and digitalisation in the transport industry makes it possible to connect the vehicles in a platoon not only to each other but also to a digital infrastructure system.


“This will make it possible to improve traffic flows and the overall efficiency of the transport system,” he says. “Thanks to connectivity we will also be able to have vehicles driven close to each other without jeopardising road safety. This means we will have a more efficient use of highway infrastructure as we will be able to ‘pack the roads’ in a better way.”


Autonomous vehicles follow leader

Scania sees the future development of platooning and autonomy as a four-step ladder, with step 1 being when drivers cooperate “manually” to drive close to each other. Steps 2, 3 and 4 involve connected systems where there is a lead vehicle and the others in the convoy could have a driver that is resting (step 3), or totally automated vehicles (step 4).


“We are doing research on all these levels and are involved in different projects with customers and governments.”


One research area in focus at Scania today is the development of software that enables the trucks in the platoon to cooperate in an optimal way and to interact with future traffic infrastructure systems involving road signs, weather information and traffic conditions.


“For example, we want to secure that when the first truck brakes, and the following ones brake simultaneously in an automated way, this is done in a controlled way in order to avoid energy waste leading to higher fuel consumption.”


Career opportunity for drivers

In some countries and regions, a higher level of automation in the transport arena is seen as a way to address the problem of the shortage of truck drivers. Automation could also raise the status of the profession, as the new technology will require drivers with new skills.


“It also opens up opportunities for former truck drivers to take on more skilled roles as fleet operators, for example,” Tornmalm says. “There is a possibility that the number of drivers per 100 trucks will decrease, but as transport needs continue to grow we still see a need for more drivers in total.”



The four steps to autonomous platooning


Step 1 Manual driving

Driver in each vehicle

Distance: approx. 40 metres


Step 2 Connected vehicles

Driver in each vehicle

Vehicles wirelessly connected to each other and to cooperating control system

Simultaneous braking

Distance: approx. 20 metres


Step 3 Semi-autonomous

First driver takes lead, others can rest or sleep

Vehicles wirelessly connected to each other and to cooperating control system

Simultaneous braking

Distance: approx. 10 metres


Step 4 Autonomous

First driver takes lead, others autonomous

Vehicles wirelessly connected to each other and to cooperating control system

Simultaneous braking

Distance: approx. 10 metres


Results: improved traffic flows, increased total efficiency