The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is funding a comprehensive truck platooning demonstration in Texas. This project, led by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), represents a proactive effort in assessing innovative operational strategies for the Texas freight network.
Why Truck Platooning?
Besides driver compensation, the largest oper-ating expense for a line-haul truck is fuel. At 65 miles per hour, each truck expends about 65 percent of its fuel consumption to overcome aerodynamic drag. Currently, many large- and small-fleet operators use various techniques and technologies to gain 1 to 2 percent fuel efficiency. Research suggests that truck pla-tooning can provide 5–20 percent fuel savings, as well as offer other benefits (e.g., emission reductions, additional vehicle safety features and increased highway throughput).
Project Partnerships and Focus
The research team represents a public-private partnership (PPP) of government agencies, national labs, truck manufacturers and equip-ment suppliers, many of which have com-mitted in-kind resources such as equipment, engineering services, intellectual property and funding. The project focuses on the feasibility of deploying two-vehicle truck platoons utiliz-ing Level 2 automation on specific corridors in Texas within 5 to 10 years.
With funding from TxDOT’s innovative research program and PPPs, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) created a first-of-its-kind comprehensive freight platooning project in Texas. Building upon other pla-tooning research, the TTI team will strive to demonstrate the potential safety and mobility benefits, fuel savings, and emission reductions possible by extending vehicle automation to freight truck platoons. The project is planned in three phases:
Phase 1 (completed Aug. 2016): Conduct a feasibility planning study and proof-of-concept demonstration.
Phase 2 (ongoing): Develop the concept of operations and requirements for the design and vehicle system; enhance platooning system functional-ity, safety and reliability; and develop the Phase 3 implementation plan and platooning/AV deployment guidance.
Phase 3 (planned after April 2019): Deploy and evaluate a commercial truck-platooning application in Texas.
In Phase 1, the TTI team documented lessons learned from past platooning projects; identified potential regulatory or legislative roadblocks to introducing platooning into commercial fleet operations; and explored potential implementation scenarios given the existing infrastructure and operational environment. On July 22, 2016, the TTI team successfully demonstrated a proof-of-concept of the platooning technology.
Begun November 1, 2016, Phase 2 will transition the proof-of-concept platooning system to one that can be safely, reliably deployed within a commercial operator’s fleet for evaluation in Phase 3. To achieve and demonstrate real-world viability, the TTI-led team will incorporate functional safety and model-based verification and validation tools into the systems engineering process to minimize and augment controlled and open-road testing. The team will demonstrate and solicit input through two or more platooning demonstrations. Researchers will also assess the impact of platooning on TxDOT’s infrastructure and operations by researching critical issues like geometric and traffic operations impacts, while providing necessary outreach and training related to truck platooning. Besides drafting a Phase 3 deployment plan, the team will also develop near-term guidance for TxDOT and other stakeholders to prepare Texas for deploying truck platooning on key facilities across the TxDOT freight network.