Volvo Trucks North America recently announced the successful on-highway demonstration of its truck platooning technology. The company has been working closely with FedEx and the North Carolina Turnpike Authority (NCTA) to expand on-highway operations of Volvo’s Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control (CACC) in the United States on N.C. 540, the Triangle Expressway. This marks the first public on-highway showcase of platooning technology between a major truck manufacturer and a transportation company in the U.S.
The “platoon” consisted of three trained, professional truck drivers in Volvo VNL tractors, each pulling double 28-foot trailers. Through CACC, a wireless vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) 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 vehicle-to-vehicle communication system helps reduce the reaction time for braking and enables vehicles to follow closer, automatically 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 one 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. Reducing the traveling distance between vehicles also allows for greater highway utilization, helping alleviate traffic congestion.
Volvo Trucks and FedEx plan to continue developing the Volvo CACC technology on N.C. 540 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.