Autonomous trucks hits public roads

Six groups of trucks just took part in the EU Truck Platooning Challenge, an international test of autonomous truck driving technology.

Two trucks depart the Atomium in Brussels. It’s an everyday scene in cities across the world, but this journey is different. It’s the one of the first semi-autonomous track platoons on public roads.


When it comes to self-driving, companies like Google get a lot of attention for their cars, but truck companies are developing an autonomous system that could have great benefits and be here sooner.

It’s called platooning and was recently demonstrated on a 140 kilometer trip from Brussels to Rotterdam.

Platooning is useful when several trucks are traveling together. The front truck is the lead and information on its speed, braking and acceleration is transmitted over a vehicle-to-vehicle network to the trucks behind.

So, for example, when the truck at the front of the platoon brakes, the trucks behind do too. Because the data is transmitted instantly and automatically acted upon, the lag in such commands is almost zero. That means the trucks can travel much closer than normal so take up less space on the road and use less fuel because the platoon is more aerodynamic.

Michele Ziosi, Head of Institutional relations EMEA and APACi, CNH Industrial
“The autonomous driving, the platooning, is very important to reduce CO2 emission and to make transport safer and with a low impact to the environment.”

The trip from Brussels to Rotterdam in early April was one of six that took place the same day as part of the EU Truck Platooning Challenge.

It was a major step forward in proving the technology, but regulations are still needed.

Melanie Schultz van Haegen, Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment
“We have to deregulate because now every country has its own distance between cars, for example, or the Vienna laws that say you always have to keep your hands at the wheel. This is quite old fashioned because overtime innovation comes, the laws and the rules we make are already old fashioned, so we need to make regulations that gives us room to experiment or just get rid of it.”

The goal, a common standard that works across Europe, and between trucks of different manufacturers. A common control system is also envisaged that would keep track of platoons and allow trucks traveling across the continent to join and leave platoons as they see fit. Agreement on all of that is still a few years away.