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Energy Department Project Aims for Fuel Efficiency Gains Through Platooning

November 15, 2016

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Screenshot via Peloton
Screenshot via Peloton

Peloton Technology announced its participation in the Next-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Autonomous On-Road Vehicles program, or Nextcar, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The project aims to combine next-generation truck platooning technology and concepts with smart, cloud-connected powertrains to achieve 20% fuel savings for tractor-trailers.

Led by Purdue University, Peloton’s Nextcar project team also includes Cummins, Peterbilt, ZF TRW, the University of Arizona, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Contributions from partners include Peloton’s current platooning system and higher-automation platooning technology under development, advanced powertrain solutions from Cummins, steering controls from ZF TRW, and trucks from Peterbilt.

“Our first truck platooning system is coming to market in 2017,” said Josh Switkes, Peloton CEO. “This project will build upon our existing system and is complementary to the higher-automation solutions we are developing next.”

Nextcar partners will develop, integrate and demonstrate a set of co-optimized powertrain and automated driving controls in order to improve efficiency. The team aims to reduce fuel use of a baseline Class 8 Peterbilt 579 by 20% in real-world driving conditions by combining algorithms, look-ahead data and vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-cloud connectivity.

The new controls should require minimal hardware changes and can be programmed into electronic control units that are already on the trucks.

For Nextcar, Peloton said it will address two key research objectives. The first is to increase fuel savings from truck platooning at highway speeds from a baseline average of 7% across two trucks to 20% in combination with connected powertrains.

“Our objective is to tap into fuel savings that can only be attained by managing the powertrain precisely for the road ahead, and for the specific configuration of the trucks,” said Michael Palmer, Peloton’s director of research. “Cloud connectivity provides information about the road ahead, and the trucks exchange data about their estimated mass and powertrain capabilities. This helps us maintain smooth, efficient platooning through grades and rolling hills.”

Peloton’s second area of focus will be meeting connectivity requirements of powertrain innovations, including over-the-air engine recalibrations and distributed computing between trucks and the cloud. Peloton said it will build on its experience in developing a cloud-based network operations center to manage vehicles equipped with automated driving systems. Peloton’s platooning system employs DSRC, cellular LTE and WiFi to connect vehicles to each other and the cloud.

The Nextcar partners expect to launch the project in March 2017.

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