Something huge in the field of connected vehicle technology and automated driving, which is grabbing headlines around the world, will arrive here at Intertraffic Amsterdam later today. Dirk-Jan de Bruijn, programme director of the European Truck Platooning Challenge 2016, sets the scene and looks to the future.
Q: What is the European Truck Platooning Challenge 2016 and why is it important?
A: The EU Truck Platooning Challenge, an initiative of the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment within the framework of the EU presidency, will demonstrate that truck platooning, across borders, on public roads, is a reality in 2016. The programme, which is managed by Rijkswaterstaat is intended to be the first the first step towards more cross border testing, and bring deployment one step closer to reality.
A lot of work and cooperation has gone into the Challenge and the six platoons of trucks, with cutting-edge technology on board that will arrive here this morning.
Over the past six months there has been intensive and multidisciplinary cooperation/teamwork to realise this new form of mobility. The network involved comprised government departments, road and other authorities from the participating countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden), truck manufacturers (DAF, Daimler, Iveco, MAN, Scania and Volvo), umbrella organisations (ACEA, CEDR, CLEPA, EReg and IRU) plus a range of common interest groupings and consumer bodies.
All of that cooperation meant that last Thursday individual platoons left several European cities and drove along public roads to all converge on Rotterdam. This Challenge represents large-scale testing of cross border truck platooning.
Q: What are the benefits of truck platooning? Are they proven?
A: Truck platooning comprises a number of trucks equipped with state-of-the-art driving support systems – one closely following the other. This forms a platoon with the trucks driven by smart technology, and mutually communicating. Truck platooning is innovative and full of promise and potential for the transport sector. With the following trucks braking immediately, with zero reaction time, platooning can improve traffic safety.
Platooning is also a cost-saver as the trucks drive close together at a constant speed. Platooning is based on Adaptive Cruise Control and provides significant savings on fuel – ten percent have been demonstrated which is a massive benefit when you consider that fuel makes up around 27 per cent of the total costs for a transport company. It also has a significant impact on CO2 emissions. And, lastly, platooning efficiently boosts traffic flows thereby reducing tail-backs.
Meanwhile the short distance between vehicles means less space taken up on the road. At the same time the impact of truck platooning goes far beyond the transport sector. Automated driving and smart mobility also offer realistic chances to optimise the labour market, logistics and industry.
So what are the deployment issues?
Automated and connected driving is a hot issue and it requires cooperation between market parties, knowledge institutions, logistics service providers and governments. All too often introduction of innovations happens at the national level with time subsequently being lost dealing with issues around harmonization and standardisation. The European Truck Platooning Challenge and the route to realisation of cross border transportation with truck platoons in the near future, offer windows to reach workable agreements in advance.
Work on amassing knowledge around harmonisation and standardisation is ongoing at many locations. Alongside effective monitoring of the developments the plan here is also to remove barriers standing in the way of making truck platooning operational.
Mutual recognition of entrance procedures, driver requirements and infrastructural conditions depends on countries and parties empathising, without building national walls.
All parties involved are interdependent when it comes to removing barriers. The national vehicle authorities in various countries are unaware of their opposite numbers’ mutual requirements. Road management and admission of vehicles differ from country to country. Road characteristics, including lines, cloverleaf junctions and radius of curvature may differ. Road managers are often unaware of truck manufacturers’ knowledge in this area. It is precisely the sharing of this knowledge between all parties that will make cross border transportation with truck platooning possible.
Q: How do things stand in the Netherlands in relation to allowing or encouraging platooning and self-driving on public roads?
A: Together with the Netherlands Vehicle Authority (RDW), Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, Melanie Schultz van Haegen, prepared regulations, which came into force on 1 July last year, that made automated driving on public roads legally feasible.
The new legislation, the road network and the clustering of technological expertise in the Netherlands make the country an ideal testbed for self-driving vehicles. The same applies to the testing of new forms of technology whereby vehicles communicate with each other and with the infrastructure. The Netherlands is home to excellent facilities like the RDW test centre, the automotive cluster in Helmond, the DITCM (Dutch Integrated Test site for Cooperative Mobility) and the ITS corridor currently under development with Germany and Austria. This corridor is being readied for testing of cooperative intelligent systems and automated driving. The Netherlands can point to many examples of governmentals, the business community and knowledge institutes jointly yielding breakthroughs. The Dutch Automated Vehicle Initiative (DAVI) demonstration in 2013 was a good example.
Q: The Challenge will arrive here this morning. How do you, as programme director personally feel and what happens now and going forward?
A: If I say it’s hectic, that’s an understatement. This is the moment our network has been working towards for months. Looking at the follow-up period, what matters is to keep alive the formula that’s kept us together. I’m talking about belief in an innovative perspective on mobility and logistics.
Over the past several weeks the European Truck Platooning Team and TNO have worked closely on the content of the Vision Truck Platooning 2025 – specifically on how truck platooning can, in due course, be fully integrated into daily processes. This vision will be presented at a conference later today here in the Amsterdam RAI. The basis for this vision was set down during the Bergambacht-session in late January. Meanwhile, to get a fix on the most important challenges and barriers around truck platooning – things like business cases, technology, legislation and regulation – we also conducted an online survey to identify various standpoints on truck platooning.’
We are setting out all the experiences around the European Truck Platooning Challenge in a Storybook. This gives all the partners we worked with so closely in the past period, a chance to have their say. Melanie Schultz van Haegen, Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment and Jan Hendrik Dronkers, director-general of Rijkswaterstaat, provided the foreword for the book which is being handed out at the conference here today.
Looking forward, The Challenge must have a follow-up. All the parties involved agree on this. The board of Rijkswaterstaat has indicated that it will continue to play a connecting role in the period ahead, to see the concept of truck platooning make the next step in the innovation life-cycle. The plan here is that before the Dutch presidency of the European Union comes to an end, in a co-creation with market parties - the coalition of the willing as it’s called - we will establish a dedicated programme.
Q: What experience gained as programme director of the Truck Platooning Challenge 2016 will you be passing on to the Rijkswaterstaat?
A: Rijkswaterstaat needs to study the lessons learnt and how the organisation stands to benefit here. I think it should also do far more with co-creation and network leadership. And in alliance with partners - like corporates, governmentals, knowledge institutes and common interest groupings - it has to lever future visions into the operational realm. That way you combine three key ingredients: brainpower, support and shared ownership. And this, of course, is exactly what created the basis for the success of the Challenge.
We have a very informative website and, going forward, so will be keeping people informed about future developments on this ground-breaking initiative as they unfold.