Two 18-wheeler trucks in Nevada have successfully demonstrated that automated systems could make vehicles safer and more fuel efficient. Popular Science reports that a computer-assisted truck was able to maintain a precise distance of 33 feet from its human-operated counterpart. The truck used technology similar to adaptive cruise control, enabling its driver to steer without worrying about acceleration or braking. Both vehicles were tethered by a real-time video link that allowed for better visibility and greater awareness of road conditions.
save more than $6 billion of diesel fuel annually
The two trucks were outfitted by Peloton Tech, a startup that claims its system could help the trucking industry "save more than $6 billion of diesel fuel annually." It has been verified that the lead trucks use 4.5 percent less fuel while rear trucks can save 10 percent. Peloton Tech held a live demonstration in Nevada last month where Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki said, "We just hope not only to be a part of the research and development but the manufacturing and the job creation that we believe will come with it in years to come." According to News 4, it takes about a week to have trucks retrofitted with a GPS system, antennas, and a radar detector. The company reportedly hopes to accelerate the process, and have their technology on the road by the end of next year.
While the company's work does not involve self-driving trucks, it is nonetheless indicative of the growth of autonomous vehicles. Nevada was the first US state to approve regulations concerning the usage of self-driving cars, but other places in the country have since sanctioned similar legislation. Companies like Google and Volvo are working to deploy vehicles capable of varying degrees of autonomy. In 2012, the European Commission-funded Project SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) successfully completed a 125-mile road test involving three computer-controlled cars. Then in 2013, a Japanese corporation showcased the efficiency of their four-truck convoy which only utilized one human driver.