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Autonomous-trucking technology provider Locomation and Wilson Logistics, a Springfield, Mo.-based trucking and transportation logistics company, have announced a multiyear partnership.
Locomation will put its Autonomous Relay Convoy (ARC) technology in Wilson Logistics’ vehicles. The agreement will take effect this spring.
Locomation said in a statement March 3 that the three-year pilot program will use “human-guided autonomous convoying,” in which two-truck convoys, using one driver in the lead truck, will control the following vehicle, using the company’s fully autonomous, aftermarket technology.
The nationwide pilot will start with 62 two-truck convoys along 11 predetermined routes where Wilson operates.
“Our work with Locomation will mark a significant step forward for Wilson Logistics,” Wilson CEO Darrel Wilson told Transport Topics. “Not only will we improve our asset utilization and network efficiency, but we’ll make great strides in reducing our energy spending while improving our safety.”
Wilson stressed that during the pilot, even as the trailing vehicle is being operated in the autonomous mode, a driver will be in that vehicle at all times.
“This is a 36-month pilot, and in the beginning, everyone will be on duty,” Wilson said. “Those drivers will be on duty at least in the beginning, at least until it’s proven that it’s viable to have the driver be off-duty.”
For the past several months, officials with the companies have been reviewing Wilson’s routes and schedules, determining where they believe the autonomous technology would work the best and under the safest conditions.
“We analyzed and identified the freight corridors where the technology worked,” Locomation co-founder and CEO Cetin Mericli told TT. “We think there will be an enormous improvement in safety.”
The trucks will be linked using wireless technology and will not exceed the company’s maximum speed of 62 mph. When in autonomous platooning mode, the trucks will be separated by at least 25 feet.
“We operate in 48 states and Canada. For this pilot, we’ll be operating mostly in the western U.S.,” Wilson said.
Locomation said that when the platform is fully utilized, it will lower operating costs as much as 33% per mile, in part because of an 8% improvement in fuel expenses because of the improved efficiency.
Wilson operates 1,100 power units and has 1,400 drivers. CEO Wilson told TT as the company adds the platooning technology to more of its trucks, there are no plans to reduce the number of its drivers. He believes it will raise driver pay because the company intends to reinvest some of the savings from the higher efficiency of the operation and raise salaries.
Host Seth Clevenger went to CES 2020 to look at the road ahead for electric-powered commercial vehicles. He spoke with Scott Newhouse of Peterbilt and Chris Nordh of Ryder System. Hear a snippet, above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.
“We anticipate that drivers’ wages will rise with this model,” Wilson said. “We’re very excited to bring out this safety, efficiency, comfort and the pay for our drivers. In our estimation, this will be a premium job.”
Locomation officials said the autonomous technology it is installing in Wilson’s fleet is compatible with most late-model trucks on the road.
The company has ambitious plans for this program, as expectations are to eventually expand to more than 2,000 autonomous trucks operating on more than 68 routes. As is the case with its partnership with Wilson Logistics, those highways and roads will have to be reviewed by Locomation and its trucking company partners to ensure they are safe for operating autonomous vehicles.
“We’ve built our ARC technology stack and network strategy to leverage the value of long-established trucking routes and systems. Wilson Logistics is a perfect fit for our first pilot program,” Mericli said.
Locomation, based in Pittsburgh, was founded in 2018 by several former members of Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center.
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