Safety Technology Could Transform Trucking, Tech Leaders Say


IRVING, Texas — New developments in active safety technology have the potential to dramatically transform the trucking industry, perhaps even culminating someday in driverless trucks, technology leaders told fleet executives here at a meeting organized by American Trucking Associations.

Anthony Levandowski, engineering director for Google Inc.’s driverless car, said he believes unmanned vehicle technology will make its way to the transportation industry.

“I think the technology will naturally evolve into trucks,” he said Dec. 4 at ATA’s Executive Summit on Technology-Driven Performance. “We think this technology is a great benefit to society and want to encourage it.”

Google is not currently working on a product for trucking, but the company has developed technology that enables a car to drive itself for large segments of a trip by sensing its surroundings with a laser mounted atop the vehicle and utilizing an onboard computer, he said.

The automated system can react more quickly and is safer than a human driver, Levandowski said, adding that Google aims to offer a driverless car product for the consumer market within four years.

While unmanned trucks are not yet a reality, systems designed to assist the driver are already on the market today.

Current examples include collision avoidance and electronic stability control systems, but more types of those technologies are being developed and tested.

Josh Switkes, CEO of Peloton Technology Inc., said his company will soon offer a system that can “link” a pair of trucks and synchronize their braking activity as they travel along a highway, with one truck following behind the other at a set distance.

This “platooning” system uses radar and vehicle-to-vehicle communications to prevent accidents by automatically engaging the brakes while conserving fuel by reducing aerodynamic drag, he said.

Switkes said Peloton recently worked with C.R. England Inc. to conduct a fuel efficiency test for the technology. At a 36-foot following distance, the front truck achieved fuel savings of 4.5% and the rear truck 10%, he said.


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