Autonomous trucks drive 2,000km across Europe in platooning challenge

We all know that autonomous cars will make our roads safer and reduce traffic we have to deal with. The autonomous future also includes autonomous big rigs and trucks that will haul cargo across the country. Trucks from 12 different makers recently completed a week's trek across Europe and most of the time the trucks were driving autonomously.

The feat marks the first time such a major autonomous test has been conducted in Europe. The trucks started from bases in three different European countries. All of the trucks completed their journeys in Rotterdam, the Netherlands on April 6. One set of the trucks were constructed by Scania, traveled over 2,000km, and crossed four different borders during the trip.

The event the trucks participated in is called the European Truck Platooning Challenge and was organized by the Dutch government. When these trucks autonomously follow each other, it's called Platooning. The rigs were connected by WiFi and are able to leave smaller gaps between each other when driving than is possible with drivers at the wheel.

Platooning has big benefits for trucking firms with fuel consumption reduced by up to 15% and reduced accidents related to human error. That means that a pair of trucks that drive 100,000 miles annually could save about €6,000 on fuel via platooning compared to driving alone using cruise control. Platooning big rigs have some regulatory hurdles to cross before they take to the roads in mass. Right now trucks from different makers use different WiFi systems and would be unable to platoon together. Each country also has different standards that the trucks need to meet. Dirk-Jan de Bruijn, the platooning challenge's program director says, "The challenge is of course not an end point, but a starting point. It's a new kick-off."