If you were wondering how platooning technology developer Peloton would respond to Daimler Truck and Bus chief Martin Daum's recent remarks casting doubt on the potential of truck platooning technology, wonder no more. According to CEO Josh Switkes, Peloton is doubling down on its technology efforts, announcing a new, Level 4 driverless platooning system at the Automated Vehicle Symposium in Orlando, Florida, on July 17.
“This is our first public report announcing what we’re seeing in our field testing,” Switkes said in an interview with HDT. “Daimler announced they’re not seeing good results with their platooning system. And we’re now ready to say publicly that we are absolutely seeing good results with ours – both in terms of fuel savings and enhanced safety.”
Peloton’s Automated Following, announced in Orlando, is an advanced platooning system, using vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology to enable a single driver to drive a pair of vehicles. It marks the next major milestone in Peloton’s unique approach to deploying automation to increase the safety and productivity of commercial vehicles. Switkes said the new system can double the efficiency of a single driver, who will eventually be able to command premium pay and status for mastering this new transportation skill.
Peloton’s proprietary technologies link pairs of heavy trucks for connected driving that improves aerodynamics, fuel economy and safety, using V2V communications and radar-based active braking systems, combined with vehicle control algorithms.
“We’ve taken a different approach to commercial introduction of automation in Class 8 vehicles.” Switkes told HDT. “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.”
Automated Following is a Level 4 autonomous system that requires no driver in the following truck. “This essentially doubles the productivity of the driver in the lead truck,” Switkes told HDT. “Fleets will be able to effectively drive a pair of trucks down the road with only one driver, delivering a reduction in operation costs.
"The reason we can do with is because Automated Following leverages the skill, experience and intuition of professional drivers to take their skills to the next level. Those capabilities allow our system to handle a lot of situations and maneuvers – construction zones are a prime example – that are challenging for fully autonomous vehicles. That’s why we believe that drivers that learn and qualify to use Automated Following will be among the highest skilled professionals in the industry, able to offer fleets the ability to expand operations, create additional capacity while being more cost effective.”
Switkes added that these benefits will result in improved work for drivers through better routes, schedules and compensation, as well as better quality of life through expanding hub-to-hub and relay-style operations that allow drivers to be home with their families every night.
Peloton’s existing Level 1 (driver assistive) system, PlatoonPro, has a driver in both the lead and follow trucks. The driver in the follow truck steers, but the system controls the powertrain and brakes to manage the following distance very precisely and to provide immediate reaction to whatever acceleration or braking the lead truck performs.
PlatoonPro is currently in operation with six customers and additional customer fleet trials are underway. In each case the customer and Peloton have seen a perfect safety record, according to the company. Switkes confirmed that in testing, Peloton’s customer trucks have shown fuel savings averaging over 7%.
“We have seen very high percentages of miles platooned, as high as 90%,” Switkes added. “Platooned miles per day have exceeded 700 miles per truck in some cases, resulting in projected fuel savings per truck up to $7,000-10,000 per year.”
Watch a short video demonstrating Peloton Automatic Following: