Man at His Best

A Fleet Of Self-Driving Trucks Just Completed A 1,000-Mile Trip Across Europe

Success of the European Truck Platooning Challenge could mean these convoys may become a regular thing.

BY Eric Limer | Apr 13, 2016 | Automotive

Everyone's excited for self-driving cars that can ferry us from home to work and back again, but the most recent success in autonomous vehicles is a bit more business-based. ​A squad of a dozen or so self-driving cargo trucks just completed a demonstration in Europe that covered over a thousand miles and crossed several borders, all with minimal human help.

The trucks were all part of the European Truck Platooning Challenge​, an event sponsored by the Dutch government, and which is aimed at making fleets of smart, self-driving cargo trucks a practical business reality. "Platooning" is essentially just close, connected, fleet-based driving where follower trucks connect to the vehicle ahead of them with Wi-Fi and maintain a very tight driving formation that wouldn't be safe for more fallible human drivers. A number of different companies participated, each using trucks and technology of its own. Scania, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, had the fleet that completed the most impressive journey of over 1,000 miles.

The advantages over human-based trucking are myriad. Aside from not relying on humans that need breaks for annoying things like food, sleep, and sanity, the formations that platooning enables can save a lot of money in fuel costs by cutting down on wind resistance. Research firm TNO estimates that trucks use 15 percent less fuel while they're platooning.

Here's some footage of a fleet in action:

It will probably still be a while before any of this takes hold as a common business practice; collective legislative action has to happen before fleets like these have the potential to travel any considerable distance on a regular basis. But it's looking more and more like the tech is there. Odds are everything else will follow sooner or later.

From: Esquire UK.