Two Auburn University Peterbilt 579 trucks lead a four-vehicle convoy composed of commercial and military vehicles. Platooning technology, demonstrated by the convoy, could improve safety and fuel economy for commercial vehicles.

Auburn University researchers recently demonstrated truck platooning systems that allowed commercial vehicles to travel from the U.S. to Canada using vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) wireless technology. The test was conducted with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC).

Truck platooning links two or more trucks using V2V wireless communications technology and sensors, allowing them to automatically maintain a set, close distance between each other. By shortening the distance between vehicles, the technology could increase fuel efficiency, decrease traffic congestion, and improve safety.

“Auburn University and TARDEC researchers are advancing this technology to the point where it is ready for commercial and military uses,” says David Bevly, director of Auburn University’s GPS (global positioning system) and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory (GAVLAB) and professor of mechanical engineering.

Auburn’s two Peterbilt 579 trucks led the mixed convoy of commercial and military trucks using autonomous platooning software that Bevly’s research group developed. The autonomy software uses GPS and other on-board vehicle data shared using dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) radios in conjunction with radar measurements to allow the convoy to maintain a set distance between each truck.

The Army vehicles in the convoy, two M915 line-haul tractors carrying flatbed trailers loaded with cargo containers, are equipped with TARDEC’s Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System technology that enables capabilities from driver-warning features similar to those in commercial automobiles to fully-autonomous operation.

“Driverless capabilities can do so much for our soldiers and their missions,” says Bernie Theisen, project manager for TARDEC’s leader-follower program. “We can move soldiers out of the convoy trucks and into missions where they’re uniquely suited, and this technology can significantly increase the safety for those soldiers who do continue to operate the convoys.”

During the demonstration, the vehicles used automated acceleration and deceleration features, allowing trailing vehicles to adjust speed and braking to instructions received from the lead vehicle.

Auburn University GPS and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory

U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC)