Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks driving in a connected convoy (truck platoon) using the Highway Pilot Connect system. Photo: Daimler

Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks driving in a connected convoy (truck platoon) using the Highway Pilot Connect system. Photo: Daimler

The European Truck Platooning Challenge came to a close on April 6, with the last of six participating truck manufacturers reaching the final destination of Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Six European truck makers participated in the project, which was initiated by the Dutch government to promote platooning by running truck convoys using the technology on public roads.

Volvo, Daimler Trucks, DAF Trucks, Iveco, MAN Truck & Bus and Scania all participated in the challenge, driving platooned convoys thousands of miles across multiple borders in countries that included Sweden, Germany and Belgium.

“The results of this first ever major tryout in Europe are promising,” said Melanie Schultz van Haegen, The Netherlands' Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment. “It will certainly help my colleagues and I discuss the adjustments needed to make self-driving transport a reality.”

In addition to showcasing a working version of platooning technology, the project also highlighted the need for synchronized rules between European countries so that manufacturers can create a technology that meets regulations across the European Union.

“Platooning also reinforces the leadership position of our automotive industry in terms of new technology; this also boosts Europe’s competitive position in the global marketplace,” said Erik Jonnaert, Secretary-General of ACEA, the organization representing the six manufacturers involved. “Cooperation within the EU is crucial in preventing the development of a patchwork of local rules and procedures, strangling progress.”

During the event, platoons were monitored and filmed from the air to study how other traffic reacted to the three-truck long columns on the road. A joint study is underway with the Royal Dutch Touring Club (ANWB) to see how road users can be actively involved in the introduction of truck platooning.

Truck platooning involves a group of three trucks connected wirelessly driving in a column to reduce the total amount of fuel consumed by the vehicles.

The technology has also shown promise in reducing carbon emissions and improving safety by reducing human error. By allowing the vehicles to communicate and operate semi-autonomously, the trucks can drive with smaller gaps thanks to the synchronization of braking.

“As the test shows, the technology has come a long way already,” said Schultz van Haegen. “What it also makes clear is that we Europeans need to better harmonize rules of the road and rules for drivers. This will open the door for upscaled, cross-border truck platooning.”