Volvo, FedEx demonstrate platooning

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Volvo Group, FedEx and the North Carolina Turnpike Authority recently collaborated to test technology that facilitates truck platooning, which reduces drag and improves fuel efficiency.

Volvo Trucks North America, together with FedEx and the North Carolina Turnpike Authority, recently used advanced driver assistance system technology to conduct on-highway truck platooning as part of ongoing research collaboration.

This marks the first public on-highway showcase of platooning technology between a major truck manufacturer and a transportation company in the United States, Volvo reported. In platooning, trucks follow one another closely, minimizing drag to save fuel.

The test platoon consisted of three trained, professional truck drivers in Volvo VNL tractors, each pulling double 28-foot trailers.

Through a wireless vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology, the tractors and trailers remained in constant communication. The tractors and trailers traveled at speeds of up to 62 mph while keeping a time gap of 1.5 seconds, maintaining a closer distance than what is typical for on-highway tractors.

Staged and unplanned vehicle cut-ins demonstrated how the technology handles common traffic situations.

The demonstration is the result of an ongoing research collaboration.

Since April, three Volvo VNL tractors have been paired with various combinations of FedEx trailers to simulate real-world routes and trailer loads.

The vehicle-to-vehicle communication system helps reduce the reaction time for braking and enables vehicles to follow closer, matching each other’s speed and braking. The advanced technology is meant to serve as an aid, not a replacement, for skilled professional truck drivers.

When trucks can drive closely behind each another, fuel efficiency is improved as a result of reduced drag. Drag accounts for up to 25 percent of a truck’s total fuel consumption, and the closer the trucks drive to each other, the greater the fuel-saving potential, Volvo reported.

Reducing the traveling distance between vehicles also allows for greater highway use, helping alleviate traffic congestion.

Volvo Trucks and FedEx plan to continue developing the technology into the foreseeable future with the goal of continuing to learn about the potential benefits offered by vehicle platooning. Additionally, this advanced testing will allow the participants to adapt to the technological and regulatory developments that will ultimately determine the commercial viability of platooning technology in the United States.

The Volvo Group has facilities near Hagerstown, Md., and Shippensburg, Pa.