Autonomously Driven Trucks Hit The Road In Europe
The self-driving concept has far-reaching implications for shipping and commerce
This week, three connected and autonomous Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks headed out from Stuttgart on a two-day, cross-border convoy drive to Rotterdam. They were taking part in the European Truck Platooning Challenge, organized by the Dutch government. These smart trucks have the potential to make the transport of goods more efficient, sustainable and safer in the coming years.
The trucks used the Highway Pilot Connect system, which allows electronic docking by vehicles on motorways and long-distance highways, known as platooning. Connected vehicles traveling in a platoon need a distance of only 15 meters between them instead of the usual 50. This smaller gap between the vehicles produces a significant reduction in aerodynamic drag, so a platoon of three trucks can achieve a fuel saving of up to 10 percent and reduced CO2 emissions.
Platooning leads to more efficient use of road space, as three linked trucks have a length of only 80 meters compared to those not electronically docked, which are 150 meters. Platooning can also reduce congestion and prevent human error from causing accidents, making roads safer. While a human behind the wheel has a reaction time of 1.4 seconds, Highway Pilot Connect transmits braking signals to the vehicles behind in less than 0.1 seconds. This faster reaction time could reduce rear-end collisions, like the ones that can occur when encountering traffic jams on motorways.
Autonomously driven trucks have the potential to revolutionize the shipping industry, making driving more efficient and delivering goods nonstop across the country 24/7 without the need for drivers. There are plans to have autonomous trucks picking up goods in the port of Rotterdam and delivering them across Europe in a trial due to be carried out by companies including Unilever.