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Peloton unveils Level 4 platooning technology with autonomous following truck

Image: Peloton

Peloton Technology unveiled its vision to develop its new Level 4 automated following technology on July 17 at the Automated Vehicle Symposium in Orlando, Florida.

Its new technology would allow the lead truck to steer two commercial vehicles in a platoon, a driving strategy featuring digitally tethered trucks traveling in single file to reduce drag.

The company’s vehicle-to-vehicle technology allows the human driver in the lead truck to guide the steering, acceleration and braking of the following truck and connects the safety systems between the trucks, Peloton said.

Peloton said its connected driving technology improves aerodynamics, fuel economy and safety.

Josh Switkes, founder and chief executive of Peloton, said the trucking industry is pushing for platooning technology as it deals with high costs to train and retain drivers. The turnover rate at large truckload fleets was 83 percent in the first quarter of 2019, according to the American Trucking Associations.

“Every fleet we talked to said if they could hire more drivers they would,” Switkes told FreightWaves. “They have plenty of demand for loads, but they just need drivers, who are hard to find right now.”

Trucking companies’ revenue, including both for-hire carriers and private fleets, is around $726  billion, and the operating expense motor carriers spend on fuel is approximately 22 percent, the ATA said.  

Peloton is currently testing its Level 1 PlatoonPro system with six customers. Its technology utilizes drivers in both the lead and follow trucks. The trucks are connected by vehicle-to-vehicle radio. 

Switkes said customers in its PlatoonPro trial are averaging more than 7 percent in fuel savings.

“We see the drivers as the world’s best sensors, and we are leveraging this to enable today’s drivers to be more productive through automated following platoons,” Switkes said.

However, before this technology can be rolled out nationwide, state laws and regulatory hurdles must be addressed. 

“It’s not going to be like flipping a light switch,” Switkes said. “Just because a truck automation company pulls safety drivers out [of the cab], it doesn’t mean you can suddenly deploy those vehicles in all operating environments and in all applications.”

Currently, only 20 states permit commercial platooning deployments, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which released its report on July 17.

“New automated vehicle technology will help freight truck companies transport consumer goods in a more fuel-efficient way, reducing transportation costs and emissions and boosting highway safety thanks to always-on automatic emergency braking,” according to the CEI report. 

Earlier this year, Daimler Trucks, the world’s largest commercial truck maker, said it was moving away from platooning after testing the technology in June of 2018.

Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected]