Skip to main content

More the merrier: Study shows driverless truck platooning saves time and energy

Volvo truck
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Parents have been saying it to their licensed-driver children for years: “You’re driving too close to the car in front!” In a NASCAR race, proximity can help inch a car into the lead by taking advantage of aerodynamics and causing the car in front to deal with drag. On a highway though, driving that close is downright dangerous.

But as autonomous driving systems advance and even seem poised to replace human drivers in the coming decades, researchers are investigating the most efficient ways for vehicles to travel, particularly when they aren’t prone to human error.

Now, a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have looked at the trucking industry and found that simple platooning formations and proximity driving prove to be the most cost- and energy-efficient techniques.

“We were able to establish that, with little loss in transportation delays, there are a lot of energy savings, hence reduction in fuel costs and emissions,” Professor Sertac Karaman, who co-authored a paper on the study, told Digital Trends.

Along with graduate students Aviv Adler and David Miculescu, Karaman created a mathematical model to test how various scheduling policies can effect fuel consumption and timing of deliveries. They analyzed different scenarios — both simple and complex — including trucks leaving at regular intervals, staggered intervals, and driving in platoons of varying sizes.

“Our analysis showed that there are very simple strategies that attain very good performance,” Karaman said. “Specifically, we found that even simple time tables are almost as powerful as the most complicated control systems, which is a big surprise.”

MoreDriverless trucks with humans onboard will be necessary, regulators say

In the future, the most efficient methods might not be safe or practical for human drivers, since driverless trucks may be able to travel at distances of just a few feet from each other. For this reason, Karaman and his team think autonomous driving systems may be better suited for such journeys. Still, the researchers acknowledge that is some years down the road.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done toward enabling autonomous vehicles,” Karaman said. “However, there are certain technologies that can be brought to market quickly, and save a large amount on the costs. Platooning technology is one of them. We may see technologies that allows trucks to drive very close to each other, even if all the trucks are manned. This may still result in huge savings in fuel, with little impact on delays.”

Editors' Recommendations

Dyllan Furness
Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer from Florida. He covers strange science and emerging tech for Digital Trends, focusing…
Meet the game-changing pitching robot that can perfectly mimic any human throw
baseball hitter swings and misses

Who’s your favorite baseball pitcher? Shane McClanahan? Sandy Alcantara? Justin Verlander? Whoever you said, two of the top sports-tech companies in the U.S. -- Rapsodo and Trajekt Sports -- have teamed up to build a robot version of them, and the results are reportedly uncannily accurate.

Okay, so we’re not talking about walking-talking-pitching standalone robots, as great a sci-fi-tinged MLB ad as that would be. However, Rapsodo and Trajekt have combined their considerable powers to throw a slew of different technologies at the problem of building a machine that's able to accurately simulate the pitching style of whichever player you want to practice batting against -- and they may just have pulled it off, too.

Read more
The best portable power stations
EcoFlow DELTA 2 on table at campsite for quick charging.

Affordable and efficient portable power is a necessity these days, keeping our electronic devices operational while on the go. But there are literally dozens of options to choose from, making it abundantly difficult to decide which mobile charging solution is best for you. We've sorted through countless portable power options and came up with six of the best portable power stations to keep your smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other gadgets functioning while living off the grid.
The best overall: Jackery Explorer 1000

Jackery has been a mainstay in the portable power market for several years, and today, the company continues to set the standard. With three AC outlets, two USB-A, and two USB-C plugs, you'll have plenty of options for keeping your gadgets charged.

Read more
CES 2023: HD Hyundai’s Avikus is an A.I. for autonomous boat and marine navigation
Demonstration of NeuBoat level 2 autonomous navigation system at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show

This content was produced in partnership with HD Hyundai.
Autonomous vehicle navigation technology is certainly nothing new and has been in the works for the better part of a decade at this point. But one of the most common forms we see and hear about is the type used to control steering in road-based vehicles. That's not the only place where technology can make a huge difference. Autonomous driving systems can offer incredible benefits to boats and marine vehicles, too, which is precisely why HD Hyundai has unveiled its Avikus AI technology -- for marine and watercraft vehicles.

More recently, HD Hyundai participated in the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, to demo its NeuBoat level 2 autonomous navigation system for recreational boats. The name mashes together the words "neuron" and "boat" and is quite fitting since the Avikus' A.I. navigation tech is a core component of the solution, it will handle self-recognition, real-time decisions, and controls when on the water. Of course, there are a lot of things happening behind the scenes with HD Hyundai's autonomous navigation solution, which we'll dive into below -- HD Hyundai will also be introducing more about the tech at CES 2023.

Read more