Daimler unhitches from truck platooning
A senior executive of Daimler Trucks has used the stage of CES 2019 in Las Vegas to announce that the company is stepping away from R&D efforts to build platooning into its production models.
In his keynote address, Martin Daum, Head of Daimler Trucks & Buses, said:
We’re not prioritising platooning, which we define as the electronic coupling of two or more trucks with very reduced distance between them to improve aerodynamics. We will not prioritise it for series production. We tested it for several years, especially in the US where benefits would be the biggest. Results show that we have to reassess how much fuel is saved. Platoons do improve aerodynamics and fuel efficiency in an ideal world, but not in real-world traffic.
That’s Daimler’s approach ongoing. As regards work already in progress, Daum said, ‘We will, of course, remain committed to all partner projects that are still up and running, but apart from that we will not start any major new projects for that technology.
In an interview with the Heavy Duty Trucking website, Josh Switke, the CEO and founder of Peloton was more positive about his company’s findings:
Peloton is seeing even better fuel economy results on public roads than we anticipated based on our previous and ongoing track tests. In addition, we have also seen a high utilization of platooning on typical freight lanes.
Of course he would say that, given that platooning is the company’s business.
Of how moves in the the platooning space might shake out, Michael Milford, Professor of Robotics at the Queensland University of Technology, told iMOVE:
There are really two primary types of plays going on in autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles: the mega-hyped, dominate the market and open up new massive commercial opportunities type (e.g. advertising to passengers in cars that drive themselves), and more traditional, improve efficiency / safety / provide a concrete service for fee-type plays.
Platooning falls squarely in the latter. There’s far less (hypothetical) money at stake, so there’s less motivation for a company to try and push through the very hard technical challenges.
Platooning only has partially overlapping challenges with autonomous passenger-carrying cars for example, but the problems are still quite challenging so I can see how some organisations will withdraw.
Professor Milford has written an excellent primer on platooning, and its possible suitability for Australia, in his opinion piece Truck platoons could soon be coming to Australia — but problems must be solved first.