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Surprising Science

‘Cause We Got A Great Big (Semi-Autonomous) Convoy…

Coming to a highway near you, sometime in the next decade: Large trucks, traveling single-file, separated from each other by a mere few meters, controlled only by the driver in front.

What’s the Latest Development?

Earlier this year, a team of researchers in Japan became the latest group to demonstrate the feasibility of truck platooning technology, which involves linking multiple trucks together wirelessly under the command of a single lead truck. The driver of a “drone truck” can basically do whatever they want while their truck is being driven, and when they decide to leave, they just regain driving control and go. In another recent demonstration by Volvo, cars and trucks were part of a platoon that traveled at 50 miles per hour with only 20 feet separating each vehicle.

What’s the Big Idea?

Many benefits come with this form of semi-autonomous transport, including improved fuel efficiency and fewer accidents. Some estimates suggest that by compressing trucks together, enough road space will be freed up to double existing roadways’ capacities. Also, today’s trucks already have much of the technology needed to upgrade to this new way of driving. However, there are still many challenges to work out, including gaining the trust of truck drivers themselves as well as those others who share the road with them.

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Read it at BBC Future


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