• Powell Slaughter

'Truck platooning' demo at Port of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – On Wednesday, federal, state and local government and private industry partners conducted a demonstration of partially automated truck platooning, or Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control (CACC), at the Los Angeles Port complex and along Interstate 110 to give partners and stakeholders a first-hand experience of this rapidly maturing technology that could enhance safety, increase transportation system capacity, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Vehicle automation is on the way, and this demonstration was just a start.

The technology, developed by the University of California, Berkeley Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology, in coordination with Volvo Group of North America’s platooning activities, was demonstrated as trucks drove the freeway safely in closer proximity than usual by using forward looking sensors and vehicle-to-vehicle communication to maintain automated speed and spacing.

“Today we saw a demonstration of a truck technology that promises to improve California’s existing freight system by enhancing truck safety and increasing capacity on existing highways,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

The demonstration simulated “real world” conditions as three big-rig trucks drove 50 feet apart at speeds of 55 miles per hour while hauling cargo containers, similar to those that shuttle between the port and industrial centers throughout Los Angeles County. Radar detected vehicle cut-ins by a staged vehicle to demonstrate how it handles traffic.

“Through the use of vehicle-to-vehicle communication, platooning reduces the reaction time for braking and aerodynamic drag between vehicles, thereby improving safety and fuel economy,” said Volvo Group North America Senior Public Affairs Vice President Susan Alt. “California faces some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation, a contributing factor in the state’s air quality problems. The Volvo Group is committed to developing advanced technology solutions, such as platooning, which can provide sustainable economic, environmental and safety benefits for truck fleets and the communities where they operate.”

“Our technology planning and traffic simulation work suggests connected vehicle and truck platooning technologies may eventually facilitate the ability to operate up to 50% more trucks on these lanes – essentially giving the capacity equivalent of a third lane of freeway in each direction,” said CACC partner Mark Jensen, Cambridge Systematics.

CACC is an enhancement to adaptive cruise control (ACC) technology that provides closer and more accurate control of the gap and differences between trucks than conventional ACC. Still, as the truck drivers explained during the demonstrations, there exists the occasional need to override the system, although this would soon be remedied by incorporating additional side sensors, and by better understanding driver behaviors. 

“Truck platooning can improve traffic flow and safety while reducing costs for the freight community,” said Acting Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Butch Waidelich. “This cutting-edge method can be a win-win for the nation’s trucking industry and everyday drivers alike.”

CACC technology aims to significantly increase the capacity of dedicated truck lane facilities while reducing congestion, potentially resulting in significant benefits for goods movement to and from major ports, and long-haul cross-country routes. Other potential benefits include reduced emissions, improved traffic flow, and faster responses to hard braking while maintaining safety.

“The California Highway Patrol supports the research and development of new technologies that may have a positive impact on traffic safety,” said Chris O’Quinn, chief of the CHP’s Southern Division. “Truck platooning and other advances in vehicle technology have the potential to enhance truck safety in California. The CHP is working with Caltrans and the industry to test these technologies. We are excited to observe the technology in action and we look forward to reviewing the findings of the research.”

Moving forward, PATH will test truck driver preferences among multiple gap settings on Bay Area freeways this spring, and simulating impacts on traffic and energy savings on the Interstate 710 corridor.

The Furniture Today/AHFA Logistics Symposium at High Point University will take a hard look at vehicle automation's potential in the future.

Powell SlaughterPowell Slaughter | Senior Editor

I'm Powell Slaughter, senior editor at Furniture/Today. I returned to the publication in January 2015 after nine years of writing about furniture retail strategies and best practices at a monthly magazine focusing on home furnishings retail operations. Prior to that, I spent 10 years with F/T covering wood furniture, the last five of those as case goods editor. While I cover occasional, home entertainment and home office here, a major responsibility is expanding our attention to the logistics side of the industry. I hope my articles will encourage a dialogue with retailers, vendors, third-party logistics specialists and carriers. I’d love to hear your ideas, concerns and suggestions for smoother flow of material and goods.

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