Peloton CEO Josh Switkes says attitudes in the trucking industry toward the viability of truck platooning have shifted dramatically in the past couple of years. Photo: Peloton Technology

Peloton CEO Josh Switkes says attitudes in the trucking industry toward the viability of truck platooning have shifted dramatically in the past couple of years. Photo: Peloton Technology

Early-adoptor platooning fleets are "chomping at the bit" and ready to start truck platooning in real-world operations later this year, Peloton Technology CEO Josh Switkes said this week. He gave HDT an update on the pending launch of Peloton's platooning system while speaking on the news that Omnitracs is the lead investor in a $60 million round of funding for the connected and automated vehicle systems company.

The investment furthers Omnitracs’ partnership with Peloton Technology and builds on previously announced plans to bring Peloton’s truck platooning technology to Omnitracs’ customers.

Peloton's two-truck driver-assisted platooning system uses a forward collision avoidance system and vehicle-to-vehicle communication to allow two trucks to travel closer together than would normally be safe, allowing for fuel economy savings for both vehicles.

Switkes, co-founder and CEO of Peloton, said Omnitracs joins a diverse group of investors from both inside and outside the trucking industry. “Companies such as UPS, Volvo, Intel, Nokia and so on are giving us great participation as we work to bring truck platooning to market. And we’re bringing in new players all the time – companies involved in transportation either as users of trucks, fleets, tech providers or OEMs.”

Switkes said these partnerships are crucial for Peloton as it breaks ground on multiple fronts with a totally new technology for the trucking industry. “What we’re doing is building our own ecosystem for Peloton,” he added. “And it’s all about partnering: Whether that’s with our fleet customers and the fact that we both benefit if they platoon more, or our OEM and supplier partners who are helping to design trucks with platooning in mind, or regulators around the country so there won’t be problems when platooning does become a reality.”

Switkes said the outlook on platooning in the trucking industry – particularly among fleets – has been evolving rapidly over the past couple of years. “We’re going to have our platooning system ready for customer use soon – before the end of the year,” Switkes confirmed. “We’re currently taking pre-orders for the system, although we’re not talking publicly about who or how many at the moment. But the mood on this among fleets has been very pragmatic and practical. They understand the value this technology can bring to their businesses by leveraging the skills of their drivers and then augmenting those skills with advanced computing and safety systems.”

Peloton's two-truck driver-assisted platooning system uses a forward collision avoidance system and vehicle-to-vehicle communication to allow two trucks to travel closer together than would normally be safe, allowing for fuel economy savings for both vehicles. Photo: Peloton Technology

Peloton's two-truck driver-assisted platooning system uses a forward collision avoidance system and vehicle-to-vehicle communication to allow two trucks to travel closer together than would normally be safe, allowing for fuel economy savings for both vehicles. Photo: Peloton Technology

Initially, Switkes said, many fleets were skeptical, even though they understood the technology path Peloton was exploring. “We’re seeing more and more reach out to us now that they know platooning is coming soon. And our early-adopter fleets are chomping at the bit ready to go.”

The Series B investment from Omnitracs will help fuel Peloton’s growth plans, including the rollout of the world’s first commercial two-truck driver-assistive platooning system later in 2017, and the acceleration of vehicle integration projects with truck OEMs, Tier 1 brake system and connected-vehicle suppliers.

Omnitracs said in the funding announcement that it has a history of identifying and investing in technologies that enable fleets to operate with more transparency, speed, safety and efficiency. It has recognized that the impact of Big Data, an ever-changing regulatory landscape, and the need for efficiencies in fuel management and routing can only be addressed through new technologies that create competitive advantages for fleets.

“The transportation industry is going through a massive change,” said Omnitracs CEO John Graham. “Macro-level trends like the Internet of Things, cognitive applications, faster delivery of goods, and new levels of customer service are at the core of our new partnership with Peloton. We want to expand the possibilities of truck automation on the nation’s highways and set new standards in integrated dispatch, tracking and routing as well as driver-facing applications to maximize and optimize the orchestration of both same-fleet and cross-fleet platooning.”

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