As part of the world’s first cross-border initiative with smart trucks, six ‘platoons’ of semi-automated trucks have completed their journeys from various European cities, reaching their final destination of the Port of Rotterdam on April 6.
These trucks were participating in the European Truck Platooning Challenge, organized by the Netherlands as part of its EU Presidency. The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) and its commercial vehicle members – DAF Trucks, Daimler Trucks, Iveco, MAN Truck & Bus, Scania and Volvo Group – are active partners of this initiative, with each member providing one of the platoons.
Truck platooning – which has the potential to make transport cleaner, safer and more efficient – is the linking of two or three trucks in a convoy. These vehicles closely follow each other at a set, close distance by using connectivity technology and automated driving support systems.
Melanie Schulz, the Dutch minister for Infrastructure and the Environment who spearheaded this initiative, said, “The results of this first ever major try-out in Europe are promising. The hands-on experience gained here will be very useful in the informal European transport council on 14 April in Amsterdam. It will certainly help my colleagues and I discuss the adjustments needed to make self-driving transport a reality.”
There are still a number of barriers standing in the way of the roll-out of truck platooning across Europe. These barriers are not of a technical nature as platooning technology exists already; rather they are caused by differences in legislation between EU member states. “Harmonization is needed if we want a wide-scale introduction of platooning,” stated Harrie Schippers of DAF Trucks, speaking on behalf of the Commercial Vehicle Board of ACEA.
It is also crucial that sufficient demand will be there to ensure the right level of market uptake. Following the Truck Platooning Challenge, there have been some encouraging expressions of interest from the business community and the transport sector, including Unilever and major Dutch supermarkets.
The testing phase is the most important next step. More and more national governments are offering industry the opportunity to test their latest vehicles and technologies, thereby also supporting efforts to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance. However, this is also vital on a pan-European scale.
“It is precisely for this reason that we believe that the European Truck Platooning Challenge has been a huge success: it has fostered much-needed cooperation between all relevant stakeholders right across the EU, facilitating cross-border driving, and encouraging compatibility on legal and technical issues,” said Schippers. “We look forward to harvesting the learnings from this initiative so that, together, we can make truck platoons a common sight on Europe’s roads in the future.”