The heavy- and light-duty trucking industries will benefit from the automated driving technologies rolling out of the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas.

Automated trucking innovators Peloton Technology and partner FEV North America Inc., a smart-vehicle technology business, are demonstrating so-called SAE Level 1 truck platooning technology, which allows tightly contained, digitally connected packs trucks to drive in formation to cut wind resistance and save fuel.

“If you can apply autonomous driving to the trucking industry, there’s tremendous opportunity for reducing costs and for making it easier for drivers,” said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst at IHS Markit.

The Society of Automotive Engineers, or SAE, uses a classification system of six different levels of vehicle autonomy based on the amount of necessary driver intervention. Level 1 requires a driver to be ready to take control at any time, and features a combination of radar-controlled advanced driver assistive systems, or ADAS, like adaptive cruise controls for “feet off” operations and land keep assist for “hands off” use.

In this case, Peloton is showcasing radar-based detection systems connected to its cloud-based operations center.

For platooning, ADAS technologies use vehicle-to-vehicle, or V2V, communication systems to link the braking, acceleration and distances between the lead and follow trucks, said Steve Boyd, co-founder for Peloton Tech.

Peloton test vehicles on a highway

Peloton test vehicles on a highway. (Photo: Peloton)

ADAS technology also decreases stress on long-haul drivers. When a driver has a better job experience, they can be more efficient and happier while doing it, Brinley said. The trucking industry faces chronic driver shortages and is looking for ways to make the job both appealing and more cost efficient.

Safety also is a motivating factor for introducing ADAS to the trucking industry. If all semi-trucks were fitted with forward collision avoidance, or automatic braking, fatalities in related accidents may drop by 44 percent and injuries by 47 percent, according to a 2013 University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute report.

“Platooning is ready to provide benefits to fleets this year – not in 2020 or beyond – by allowing fleets to access the fuel savings and safety benefits of automation in the near term, at an affordable cost, and while continuing to leverage the experience of professional drivers,” Boyd said. “In an industry with tight margins, fuel continues to be the largest single cost for most fleets – even at a time of low oil prices – so the freight trucking industry is generally very excited for the benefits platooning can provide on both efficiency and safety.”

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a key part of ADAS. It collects input from radar or other vehicle systems, processes the information and makes decisions based on programing and environmental factors.

AI is also a trend seeded throughout CES this year.

Graphics and computer processor manufacturer Nvidia introduced the Xavier automotive AI supercomputer for use in any fully-autonomous vehicle system in September 2016, and showed it off at CES using a Lincoln sedan as a test vehicle.

Nvidia announced a partnership with Audi for highly-automated vehicles. The company also has an “AI Copilot” software program that can alert drivers of upcoming road hazards or distracted driving in surrounding vehicles.

All new connective technologies will need increased cyber security.

“It is fundamentally important and critical that the data is safe guarded and the vehicles operations are safe guarded,” Brinley said.

FEV North America Inc., collaborated with Karamba Security, Infineon and GlobalSign for cyber security solutions. Karamba’s software combats malicious code and protects from external attacks, while Infineon and GlobalSign will bring security modules for enhanced authentication within the electronic control unit and AI computing systems.

The goal is to have these automated driving technologies fully implemented around 2020 to 2021, according to Brinley. However, many of these are already finding their way into vehicles already on the road.

“Peloton’s platooning system is already legal and ready to hit the road in many states,” Boyd said. “More highly automated systems will need to navigate the emerging state and federal regulatory regimes and prove to be safe in a range of challenging situations, which may take several years or more before commercial deployment can occur.”

The platooning ADAS technology will be available for pre-order starting Jan. 5 and be delivered to fleet customers by the end of 2017.

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