Truck platooning over long distances could yield considerable fuel efficiency and CO2 benefits

Truck platooning over long distances could yield considerable fuel efficiency and CO2 benefits

ZF says that fully integrated ZF technology for truck platooning (driving automatically in close convoy for slip streaming) – sensor sets, the ZF ProAI supercomputer, ReAx electrohydraulic steering and the TraXon transmission system – are now in pre-production phase.

The company says that it and many of its customers are involved in the European multi-brand truck platooning project called ENSEMBLE to test programs with the goal of introducing multi-brand platooning on European roads by 2021.

Since the project involves trucks from numerous manufacturers merging together to form a convoy, standards for networking are critical, ZF points out. ZF claims its current portfolio has the technology to enable platooning capabilities, including camera and radar sensors, the ZF ProAI supercomputer, the ReAx electrohydraulic commercial vehicle steering system as well as the transmission system. 

"Driving functions like platooning are enabled by innovative ZF technology," said Fredrik Staedtler, head of the Commercial Vehicle Technology Division at ZF. "We are already providing truck manufacturers with networking support that is making transport more efficient and positively impacting the total cost of ownership."

In a platoon, two or more trucks drive closely together to create a convoy of trucks. This reduces the aerodynamic drag for the trucks behind the lead truck, which, in turn, can reduce fuel consumption by up to 20 percent.

Multi-brand platooning convoys

The reduced distance between trucks in a convoy is possible because the networked vehicles can function without driver reaction times. The trucks are designed to brake and steer in virtually real time with the actions of the lead truck; however, they do not drive blind. Thanks to sensor information and autonomous driving functions, they can also stay in the lane even if the lead vehicle unintentionally goes over the lane markings.

ZF says it has tested the feasibility of platooning in several projects. As part of the EU ENSEMBLE project, the company has established the necessary standards to make multi-brand platooning possible. Multi-brand refers to convoys made up of trucks from different manufacturers. Such mixed convoys are likely to become the most frequent scenario. In another project aFAS, which is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs, ZF has worked on implementing the platooning concept in security vehicles that are part of moving roadworks projects.

ZF is currently testing platooning in Europe, but also has plans to advance the concept in North America in the coming years.

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