Apr 08, 2016

    Self-driving trucks make milestone trip in Europe


    SIX convoys of semi-automated "smart" trucks arrived in Rotterdam's harbour on Wednesday after an experiment its organisers say will revolutionise future road transport on Europe's busy highways.

    More than a dozen self-driving trucks made by six of Europe's largest manufacturers arrived in the port in so-called "truck platoons" around midday, said Eric Jonnaert, president of the umbrella body representing DAF, Daimler, Iveco, MAN, Scania and Volvo.

    "Truck platooning" involves two or three trucks that autonomously drive in convoy and are connected via wireless with the leading truck determining route and speed.

    It is similar to concepts involving self-driving cars.

    Wednesday's arrival concludes the first cross-border experiment with self-driving trucks which left home factories from as far away as Sweden and southern Germany, said Mr Jonnaert.

    "Truck platooning will ensure cleaner and more efficient transport. Self-driving vehicles also contribute to road safety because most accidents are caused by human failure," said Dutch Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen.

    For instance, the trucks are connected via a wireless link so they brake at the same time to always maintain the same distances between them, added the Dutch infrastructure and environment ministry.

    "The advantage of truck platooning is that you have trucks driving at a consistent speed," said Mr Jonnaert, adding that the concept will aid traffic flow on Europe's congested roads.

    The trucks used in Wednesday's test, however, are still not fully automated.

    While computers allowed the vehicles to drive by themselves, human drivers were needed on board.

    Proponents of truck platooning say several hurdles still need to be ironed out so road users will not see self-driving trucks just yet.

    Difficulties include standardising regulations across the continent and designing systems that will enable trucks from different manufacturers to communicate with one another, Mr Jonnaert said.

    The Netherlands, which currently holds the revolving European Union presidency, will hold an informal summit this month to discuss changes to regulations that will "make self-driving transport a reality", said Dutch officials.