The self-driving trucks have arrived in Rotterdam after successfully navigating their way across Europe.
A so-called “platoon” of smart trucks arrived in the Dutch city after using WiFi to make their way across the continent. The idea is to group self-driving trucks together in a column driven by smart technology.
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Platooning a set of trucks involves a lead truck that drives at the front of the group, setting the speed and route of those that follow. A WiFi connection is used to synchronize breaking and maintain short gaps between the vehicles.
As a result CO2 emissions are reduced and savings of up to 10% have been seen on fuel costs, say the organizers of the trial.
“The results of this first ever major try-out in Europe are promising,” said Melanie Schultz van Haegen, the Netherlands’ minister of infrastructure and the environment. “Truck platooning ensures that transport is cleaner and more efficient. Self-driving vehicles also improve traffic safety because most traffic accidents are due to human error,” she added.
Considerable challenges remain for widespread use of technology
The “European Truck Platooning Challenge” involved self-driving trucks from Daimler Trucks, DAF Trucks, Iveco, Volvo, MAN Truck & Bus and Scania. Sets of trucks set off on March 29 from Sweden, Belgium and Germany en route to the Netherlands.
Platooning is beneficial to the environment and also serves to emphasize “the leadership position of our automotive industry in terms of new technology,” said Erik Jonnaert, secretary general of ACEA, the organization that represents the truck manufacturers involved.
However there remain a number of issues that need to be resolved before platooning of self-driving trucks can be rolled out across the continent. Schultz van Haegen said that authorities in Europe needed to “better harmonize rules of the road and rules for drivers.”
The event was organized by Rijkswaterstaat, a government body charged with overseeing the design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure in the Netherlands.
If certain conditions can be met, platooning self-driving trucks could lead to a huge reduction in the cost of transporting goods in Europe. Not only do the trucks use less fuel, but companies would negate the need to pay human drivers.