LEADING FROM THE FRONT
Travel back in time with me – to the mid-1990s. A new 34-month project called CHAUFFEUR had just been announced, running from January 1996 to October 1998, and the basis of it was to test the notion of truck platooning via an electronic tow bar.
“CHAUFFEUR is proposing an advanced telematics-based vehicle control system to increase safely the density of freight traffic and enable better use of existing roads. The project will examine sophisticated systems enabling trucks to be linked electronically. The simpler systems - 'electronic tow bar'- consists of two trucks linked electronically, with the second controlled by the leading truck. This system will be developed, tested and evaluated in public road trials. Feasibility studies will be carried out to examine the extensions of this concept: Platooning, Automated Platooning/Automated Driving. The benefits of such systems include the better use of the existing infrastructure, cost savings for the users and new competitive EU products for the international market.”
When I entered into the ITS “fray” five months before the end of the project, CHAUFFEUR was one of the first projects I learned about. “This will be a game changer,” I was told. Within 10 years truck platoons would be a common sight on Europe’s motorway network. I distinctly remember interviewing Daimler-Benz’s Matthias Schulze at the Leiden autonomous vehicle demo on my 30th birthday in June 1998 and his enthusiasm for the benefits that CHAUFFEUR, and truckk platooning in general, was demonstrating was extraordinary. Two decades later he's still as enthusiastc as ever.
In January 2000 CHAUFFEUR II got under way. This was a 40-month, near €10m project (all but one Euro cent, in fact) that promised to build on the CHAUFFEUR I Tow-Bar function.
“CHAUFFEUR II will substantially widen the applications by offering truck platooning capabilities and effective driver assistant functions. Platooning strategies will be transferred to the demonstration vehicles and concepts for platoon driving will be developed. The communication concept for platoon vehicle-vehicle communication will be developed together with a safety concept for platoon operations. A three-truck platoon will be realised and demonstrated in test track environments.
“As an add-on to the Tow-Bar function, the CHAUFFEUR Assistant function will allow the following of any other vehicle at a safe distance and reduce drivers' workload. The functions can be described as a combination of an advanced adaptive-cruise-control and lane keeping. Sophisticated vision sensors and vehicle control features, such as brake performance, estimation will be added.
Tests and demonstrations of the two CHAUFFEUR II applications will be done on test tracks and in real life environments. The technical developments are complemented by horizontal support functions ranging from HMI work, operational scenarios, cost benefit analyses, system evaluations and simulations until legal implications.”
The demonstrations of the capabilities of truck platooning that took place on the Brenner Pass on the Austrian/Italian border in 1999 (photographs of which appear to be as rare as hen’s teeth, hence we’ve illustrated my foreword with a picture of where it took place rather than the actual trials themselves) have passed into ITS folklore but the whole idea of truck platooning has always struck a chord with me as it was one of the first major breakthroughs that I remember reporting on.
Long-time Thinking Highways collaborator Richard Bishop, who I first had the pleasure of meeting on my second day in the ITS world in May 1998, has worked tirelessly for the past 20 years, among other projects, pushing the subject of truck platooning into the overarching conversation. His incredible efforts and dedication are paying off if his contribution to this issue of Thinking Highways is anything to go by. It’s entirely why we made it our cover feature and entirely why we gave it the headline of Giant Steps. I won’t give the game away any further, as it were, but instead invite you to read his article (written in partnership with Mike Britt) to discover the latest developments in the field of truck platooning.
It’s just one of 19 articles that comprise our third issue of 2019 and our third in our new web-platform format. This allows for articles to be supported by audio and video content and the issue is equally eye-catching and readable (not always common bedfellows) on laptops, phones, Macs and PCs. Please accept this as an offer to contribute thought-provoking, multimedia content – we look forward to hearing from you.
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