Platooning is an innovative transport system where trucks can drive closely together – one after another – using a common communication system based on smart technology. This could lead to benefits for the transport system with regards to safety, efficiency and the environment.
Ericsson and Scania have started a collaborative research effort to accelerate the connectivity of commercial vehicles and infrastructure. Truck platooning is just one example of this and we have assessed it in terms of the sustainability impact. We wanted to know how – and to what extent – does ICT have the potential to improve the impact of truck platooning when it comes to safety and efficiency?
In a more basic form, truck platooning could be based on an Adaptive Cruise Control system, comprising onboard radar and other electronic equipment here referred to as conventional technology. This is where each truck optimizes its behavior adding Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication enabled by ICT. The aim is to enable further fuel savings and reduce in carbon dioxide emissions through shorter distances and associated platooning.
Conventional technology (Scenario A), based on Adaptive Cruise Control, radar and other electronic equipment, can be used to drive in platoons for 25% of the full distance. The potential fuel reduction is calculated to be 2% based on Scania test track driving. In a theoretical scenario where platooning based on conventional technology would be used during the whole distance the fuel reduction potential would be 8%.
In a theoretical scenario with V2V communication, corresponding to 100% of the distance be driven in a platoon, the fuel saving potential is estimated to be 12% according to Scania for the investigated set-up (compared to the 8% for conventional technology). In practice, it is unlikely that the full distance would be suitable for platooning. However, V2V communication enables a more extensive use of platooning than the solution based on conventional technology. We thus assume that 50% of the whole distance is driven in platooning mode (scenario B). The overall 6%saving, represent an increase with 4% units compared to the 2% saving without the use of ICT. This translates into a reduction of 4 tonne CO2 per truck and year. The non-platooning reference scenario is based on an average truck in the EU that travels about 100 000 km/year with a fuel consumption of about 0.25 l/km which corresponds to emissions of about 66 ton CO2/year. A 4 tonne saving in CO2 could be compared to the average annual CO2 emissions per citizen in the EU of 7.4 tonne in 2012 (including emissions from transportation).
To understand the net impact of V2V communication, the additional saving enabled by it is compared to the additional footprint of the communication solution which gives an increase of 0,14% per truck (a factor of only approx. 1:30 compared to the estimated saving), indicating a substantial net reduction in carbon emissions.
From social perspective, truck platooning could have a vast range of impacts, from driver satisfaction due to common breaks along the roadside and more social interaction, to feeling passive during the drive and possible stress due to the threat of job losses due to automation. Safety could potentially also be increased or decreased depending on the perspective, i.e. the trucker driver or the surrounding traffic.
Platooning is not yet deployed and wide-scale tests, technical feasibility and upscaling are under development out to 2020. In order to use public road networks, further tests and legislation is necessary to prove safety and reliability. A greater level of automation and legislation for a broad commercial application with automated driverless trailing vehicles is estimated for 2030 and beyond.
Author: Sepideh Matinfar