Logistics company and technology partner begin platooning trials across regular delivery routes to bring autonomy to US roads.
Road freight technology company, Locomation has successfully completed its first-ever on-road pilot programme transporting commercial freight using “driver operated autonomous convoy” technology. The pilot was conducted with transport company Wilson Logistics in an attempt to pursue what they refer to as the most direct path to delivering commercially-viable autonomous technology to the road feight industry.
In this phase of the deployment, two Locomation lorries were deployed as an Autonomous Relay Convoy (ARC) on a 420 mile long route that stretched from Portland, OR to Nampa, ID along I-84, which has some of the most challenging road conditions in terms of curves, gradients and wind gusts. ARC is Locomation’s proprietary approach to autonomous convoys (or platoons). ARC allows one driver to pilot a lead truck equipped with technology augmentation while a follower truck operates in tandem through Locomation’s fully autonomous system. This allows the follower driver to rest during this time. Each ARC segment is engineered for maximum yield and utilisation by Locomation’s business operations team.
“The successful kickoff of this commercial agreement with Wilson Logistics is a significant milestone for our teams,” said Dr Çetin Meriçli, CEO and Co-Founder of Locomation. “Despite the threat of COVID-19, we delivered real world results for the most advanced, efficient and safest way of making commercial autonomous trucking a reality. Most importantly, the pilot strongly proved that our autonomous technology can be integrated seamlessly and deployed within a real trucking operation in a sustained fashion.”
Having seen the route for the first time during the initial, 8 day long pilot phase, Locomotion’s ARC covered approximately 3400 miles and operated autonomously for roughly half of that time, delivering 14 commercial loads. At all times during the pilot, each truck was staffed with a trained driver and a safety engineer tasked with monitoring vehicle and AV system performance, collecting more than two dozen key performance indicators vital to ensuring the successful deployment of this autonomous vehicle technology.
“This test pilot was critical for Wilson Logistics because it proved the true commercial viability of Locomation’s technology,” explained Darrel Wilson, Chairman and CEO of Wilson Logistics. “For our team, it’s the perfect combination of safety improvements, increased asset utilisation, reduced cost per mile – and most importantly, a better driver experience.”
At full commercialisation, Locomation’s autonomous vehicle technology is expected to produce an estimated 30% reduction in operating cost per mile, including 8% reduction in fuel consumption and remove over 40 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air per convoy annually.
Wilson Logistics risk management consultancy Aon also participated in the pilot program in order to assess a range of metrics related to safety.
This latest success establishes the position of the USA in bringing autonomous convoys (or platooning) to a reality. The trials in the USA are running alongside similar ventures into autonomous platooning in Europe, led predominently by goods vehicle manufacturers such as Scania in Sweden.
Currently, the Locomation-Wilson Logistics agreement will initially operate more than 124 vehicles in two-truck platoons with the next phase being anticipated to deliver more than 1,000 two-truck platoons.