One hour west of Stockholm, on a frosty but bright and sunny morning, four articulated trucks pull up onto a disused runway and come to a halt. All the trucks have drivers, but not all the drivers are driving. Today the runway is operating as the test site for Scania’s latest semi-autonomous truck platooning trial.
Scania believes that a sustainable transport future will be a reality through the use of multiple solutions. Platooning is one solution and may be one of the most effective ways to optimise logistics, transport flows and systems.
Up to date innovations
Platooning involves the use of smart technology and the most up to date innovations in autonomous vehicle technology.
On today’s test track, the vehicles drive together in one unbroken line. Each vehicle is, to the casual observer, simply driving one after the other. Gunnar Tornmalm, Head of Pre-development Automation, explains the reality of the situation. The first vehicle, he explains, is the ‘lead’ and the driver is the only driver driving manually. Christoffer Norén, a Development Engineer and one of Tornmalm’s team, sits in the third truck.
Norén is very pleased with the technology: “It was very relaxing giving control to the system,” he says.
The system uses wireless communication so the trucks can follow the leader at a close distance in a safe and efficient manner. All the trucks which follow the lead truck benefit from the slipstream created.
During the test, to further show the robust nature of the system, Tornmalm drives an ‘intruder’ vehicle. This shows how the trucks adjust when a car drives between them. The trucks automatically create a gap into which the vehicle can drive and then when it leaves they automatically make up the gap again. Brake tests are also conducted to show the effective response of the system when the lead vehicle brakes. Once the braking action is communicated to them, the following trucks respond instantaneously.
A step closer to public highways
During the trials the technology proves to be effective. It not only assists the four trucks to operate as one in a steady semi-autonomous platoon, but is also shows that it is ready to tackle unplanned, real-life, interruptions. These tests show how ready the system is for public road testing. Each test takes platooning a step closer to public highways.
“I would like to see pilot tests on a larger scale on public roads in three years,” Tornmalm says.
The continued success of the trials, and the benefits that platooning can bring to logistics, as well as the overall sustainable nature of the system, strongly suggests that Tornmalm may well soon see the system in full operation.
Platooning in brief
Platooning is a method that allows vehicles to travel in close formation on the road thereby increasing road capacity. Scania has been developing the technology for several years and is well positioned at the forefront of autonomous vehicle research and development to take platooning to the next level.