Omnitracs-Peloton Pact Blends Platooning With Fleet Management Capabilities

Peloton Technology Inc.

This story appears in the Feb. 20 print edition of Transport Topics.

Fleet telematics provider Omnitracs has forged a partnership with Peloton Technology to bring truck platooning opportunities to its customers, a development that could accelerate the trucking industry’s adoption of the emerging technology.

By combining Peloton’s platooning system with Omnitracs’ fleet management capabilities, the companies aim to make it easier for fleets to begin platooning sooner and do so more frequently, executives said after announcing the agreement Feb. 16.

Peloton’s driver-assist platooning system synchronizes the braking and acceleration of a pair of Class 8 trucks, enabling them to travel safely at shorter, more aerodynamic following distances. The company said its technology can generate fuel savings of up to 10% for the following truck and 4.5% for the lead truck.

The first commercial deployments of Peloton’s system are on track for later this year, when the company will begin to fill pre-orders.

In the announcement, Omnitracs CEO John Graham said Peloton’s technology is “on the cutting edge of advanced driver-assistance systems and the automated vehicle movement.”

Peloton co-founder and CEO Josh Switkes described the alliance as the first partnership between a commercial platooning supplier and a fleet management technology provider.

He said the Peloton system will notify drivers when they can form a platoon with a nearby truck, but the integration with Omnitracs will help facilitate those opportunities through dispatch, routing and navigation services.

“That can enable more customers to platoon earlier, and each customer to platoon a greater portion of their miles,” Switkes said.

Omnitracs applications could provide navigation assistance and fuel-savings calculations for both scheduled and unscheduled platoons of trucks, the companies said.

The partnership also could open the way for more interfleet platooning between trucks operated by different carriers.

That, in turn, could make the technology more practical for smaller carriers that might not have had the scale to platoon within their own fleets, said Kevin Haugh, Omnitracs’ chief strategy and product officer.

Omnitracs will use optimization software and information such as truck’s location and route plan to identify more platooning opportunities, Haugh said.

The integrated capabilities could help fleets and drivers plan platoons even when their trucks aren’t in the immediate vicinity.

“We may know that in an hour and a half, they’re likely to reach a point where it would make sense for them to rendezvous from a platooning standpoint,” Haugh said.

At the driver level, Omnitracs’ navigation system could then direct the drivers toward that rendezvous point.

“These are things we can do jointly to increase the level of platooning,” Haugh said.

The enhanced platooning services will be available across Omnitracs’ Intelligent Vehicle Gateway, Mobile Computing Platform and XRS product lines, he added.

The companies also said they will collaborate on the development of new features, which may include integrated fleet management services as well as hardware.

While the partnership will provide value-added services for joint customers, the Peloton system will be available to carriers that are not Omnitracs customers.

Peloton’s platooning system, which combines vehicle-to-vehicle communications with radar-based collision avoidance systems, automatically coordinates speed and the distance between the trucks, but the driver of each truck continues to manually control steering.

The company plans to manage and monitor each platoon through a network operations center. The firm said it will enable platooning only on specified roads and when driving conditions are safe.

While Peloton’s system will begin with two-truck platooning, the company has expressed interest in expanding the convoys to three or more trucks. Switkes said Peloton also is looking at bringing additional automation to the rear truck, which potentially could help fleets reduce labor costs in addition to fuel savings and safety improvements.

Investors in Peloton include Volvo Group, the parent of Volvo Trucks and Mack Trucks; parcel delivery giant UPS Inc.; video- safety supplier Lytx Inc. and component suppliers Denso International America and Magna; as well as Nokia Growth Partners, Intel Capital, Lockheed Martin and Castrol InnoVentures.