The European Truck Platooning Challenge has demonstrated the enormous advantages of V2X technology.
Six convoys by six major truck manufacturers from six cities in Sweden, Germany, and Belgium set out on a journey across Europe. Their goal was Rotterdam. Their mission was to demonstrate what is possible with Vehicle-to-X (V2X), radar, and vision technology today.
V2X means that cars wirelessly exchange information with other vehicles or infrastructure systems. On their way to Rotterdam, the six convoys demonstrated an application for self-driving technologies in trucks. It is called platooning. The front truck driver controls the platoon. All others follow autonomously, leaving braking and acceleration control to the lead vehicle.
The six convoys were part of the European Truck Platooning Challenge, an event organized by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. NXP had a crucial role as official partner of the DAF Trucks team. It started with two trucks at the DAF production site in Westerlo, Belgium. NXP also equipped several other teams in the challenge with the technology that make platooning possible. The technology is a combination of radar and camera-based systems for distance control and lane keeping, as well as V2X technology.
Like a flock of birds
With “RoadLINK,” NXP has developed a fast, secure, and reliable V2X technology that allows extremely tight distances and truly synchronous driving between the platooning DAF trucks. During the preparations for the European Truck Platooning Challenge, 0.5 seconds capability has been demonstrated. This approximates to a distance of only ten meters between the trucks at a speed of 80 km/h. They drove as one, at a constant speed. The connected trucks traveled in the lead vehicle’s slipstream, like a flock of birds. This led up to 10 percent lower fuel consumption and up to 10 percent fewer CO2 emissions.
Platooning is not only a cost-saver. It can also increase road safety. “With our technology the truck reacts 25 times faster than a human driver would react,” says Maurice Geraets, senior automotive business developer at NXP. That saves critical time in case of emergency braking. The technology also allows for a smoother, more predictable traffic flow. “We want to take some weight of the drivers’ shoulders,” says Ron Borsboom, Member of the Board of Management and Chief Engineer at DAF Trucks. “Even the best driver can’t be 100 percent concentrated all the time. Since the hardware and software of the platooning truck are ‘always on,’ platooning helps to improve safety by reducing the chance of human errors.”
The hurdle of harmonization
The quick response times are possible because NXP V2X technology relies on the IEEE802.11p wireless communications standard. This offers much lower latencies than cellular-based technologies such as LTE. “NXP has brought to the table their unique Vehicle-to-Vehicle technology, as well as strengths and capabilities that bring each of us to a higher level,” explains Borsboom. He says that was the motivation of partnering with NXP.
While platooning promises to increase safety and efficiency on the roads, there remains one important hurdle. Regulations are still very different from country to country. There is no consistency in mandatory distances between vehicles on highways, for example. That is why the European Truck Platooning Challenge will also kick off a series of harmonization efforts in Europe. “The technology is ready, now we need regulation,” says Geraets of NXP. “From 2020 onwards platooning trucks could be on the road.”