September 21, 2015 4:00 PM, EDT

Peloton On-Highway Platooning Test to Take Place in Texas

TMC Task Force Approves Paper on Automated Driving
Peloton Technology
ORLANDO, Fla. — An executive at Peloton Technology said Texas is where the initial on-highway tests of the company’s platooning system will take place next year.

Steve Boyd, co-founder and vice president of external affairs, said Mountain View, California-based Peloton, is still in discussions “with two or three major fleets” and that trials should take place during “the first half of 2016.”

Boyd made the comments at a task force meeting during the fall meeting of American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council here Sept. 21.

Platoons are a convoy of two or more trucks linked electronically to a lead truck with an active driver in each. Next year’s tests will be limited to two-truck platoons.

Texas already had shown an interest in platooning and has been experimenting with the technology through the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

In a recent interview with Transport Topics, Peloton CEO Joshua Switkes first announced plans for a trucking fleet to incorporate platooning into its operations during 2016.

At TMC, Boyd said that Peloton will work with both Meritor Wabco and Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, creating separate fleet trials using two different braking systems.

During the task force meeting, part of TMC’s Future Truck program, a final draft version of a white paper focused on automated driving and platooning, was published and then approved after discussion.

Duke Drinkard, a former truck driver who spent nearly a half-century in the maintenance department of less-than-truckload fleet Southeastern Freight Lines, was a member of the team that crafted the white paper. He acknowledged that while he is still “not 100% on board” with all parts of platooning and automated driving, “I’m a whole lot closer than when I started.”

Among his initial questions, he said, were how well would platooning drivers be able to steer, and how would the brakes operate.

Drinkard, who retired in 2007 as vice president of maintenance but still works as a consultant, joked that he has come to realize, “I was in a whole lot more danger” in his early days as a truck driver without the assistance of today’s electronic safety systems.

The white paper also looked at the potential training needs of truck drivers — and not only so they are capable of using the system.

Drivers operating automated trucks in platooning mode and non-automated trucks will become used to following the vehicle ahead very closely. As a result, drivers will need to be trained to back off from the preceding vehicle when there is no electronic assistance in operation, according to the paper.

It also references the insurance, liability, regulatory and enforcement hurdles that still must be addressed before there can be widespread use of these technologies.

Alan Korn, director of advanced brake system integration for Meritor Wabco and another member of the team that wrote the paper, praised the group’s efforts to look at these evolving technologies “in an independent way.”