Driving To Deliver Your Business

Robo-Truckers The Dish

Computer-assisted trucking is coming soon1:

Like Olympic skiers racing in single file to reduce air resistance, two 18-wheeler trucks in Nevada recently proved that uncomfortably close convoys can save drivers fuel and money.

The key, instead of bold Olympic athleticism, is robotic assistance. A computer-assisted truck was able to follow closely behind a human-driven truck perfectly, maintaining exactly 33 feet of distance between the vehicles. The promise is a future of safer, more fuel efficient, and more robotic trucking.

While Nevada is a friendly state for driverless cars2, the system tested is only partially automated, with a driver in the computer-assisted truck still responsible for steering. In a way, that makes this a very, very advanced cruise control. The technology3, developed by Peloton Tech, uses radar and a wireless link so that the following trucks travel at the same speed, braking simultaneously for safety, and doing so on an automated system that doesn t have the delays of human reaction time. In addition, the drivers of both vehicles also have a video display, expanding both drivers vision and reducing blind spots.

Besides safety, the major selling point of this system is that the reduced drag saves fuel costs. Peloton says4 the technology saves more than 7% of fuel at 65mph 10% for the rear truck and 4.5% for the lead truck, which is tremendous because Long-haul fleets spend 40% of operating expenses on fuel, accounting collectively for over 10% of U.S. oil use and related carbon emissions. These savings come primarily from reduced aerodynamic drag.

Joseph Stromberg determines5 that the factors that block a broad rollout of self-driving trucks fall mainly into two categories :

One is safety. People are understandably concerned about the idea of computers driving cars around on the roads, and those worries are amplified for tractor-trailers that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. But experts actually predict6 that automated systems will make trucking safer, by eliminating distracted driving and human error. And Google s driverless cars, at least, have now gone more than 700,000 miles7 without an accident.

The other problem is legal. Right now, just a few states8 (including California, Nevada, and Florida) have laws on the books regarding driverless cars, and their legal status as a whole is murky. For driverless trucking on Interstates to be practical, all states would need to explicitly allow these vehicles on public roads. Advocates are hopeful that national legislation will solve this problem. It s all very uncertain, but in 2012, Google s Sergey Brin predicted the Department of Transportation would begin regulating autonomous vehicles nationally as early as 2017.

Update from a reader: You CANNOT reference computer-assisted trucking and not include this video of Jean Claude Van Damme doing the splits between two Volvos! :


  1. ^ coming soon (www.popsci.com)
  2. ^ friendly state for driverless cars (www.popsci.com)
  3. ^ technology (www.technologyreview.com)
  4. ^ says (www.peloton-tech.com)
  5. ^ determines (www.vox.com)
  6. ^ experts actually predict (www.techhive.com)
  7. ^ more than 700,000 miles (www.reviewjournal.com)
  8. ^ just a few states (www.usatoday.com)

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