Oregon Vehicle Maker Tests Driver Assist on Big Rigs

October 4, 2017

A Portland-based manufacturer of commercial vehicles is performing trials on Oregon highways of tractor-trailers with driver-assist technology.

Daimler Trucks North America is testing the same technology that keeps cars in their own lanes and provides automatic braking on its big rigs.

Daimler publicized its trials last week at the 2017 North America Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta, The Bend Bulletin reported.

Daimler is pairing two of its Cascadia trucks to see how they perform together and what fuel efficiencies they achieve. The trials could result in running as many as five trucks together, a practice called platooning.

“What they’re testing is truck platooning with a driver-assist system,” said Andrew Dick, the connected, automated and electric vehicle adviser at the Oregon Department of Transportation. “Drivers are always at the wheel. The system is closely coordinating the acceleration and braking systems on the two vehicles so that they’re capable of safely traveling at a close following distance, maybe 45 feet.”

The road trials take place primarily on Interstate 84 between Portland and Pendleton. The trucks carry a banner to inform other motorists the trial is underway, Dick said.

The two vehicles communicate automatically, by short-range radio, a system called vehicle-to-vehicle communications, or V2V, that allows the lead truck to automatically signal the trailing truck when it brakes or accelerates, according to Daimler.

The automated system allows the trucks to react faster than humans could react. The trucks show a 0.2- to 0.3-second delay between the time the lead and trailing trucks brake, according to Daimler. By traveling closer together, they reduce aerodynamic drag and increase fuel efficiency.

Vehicle-to-vehicle communications are part of a suite of systems incorporated into the Cascadia that include lane correction, adaptive cruise control, hazard warning and braking for stationary and moving objects and pedestrians, according to the truck maker.

The technology being tested by Daimler does not create a strictly autonomous, or self-driving, vehicle, Dick said. A driver with a commercial license is at the wheel, “ready to take control at a moment’s notice,” he said. The trailing driver may override the vehicle-to-vehicle system by moving the wheel or tapping the brakes, or if a passing vehicle attempts to enter the space between the two trucks, he said.

“If a vehicle enters that space, that platoon will instantly dissolve,” Dick said. “That back vehicle will stop closing and retreat.”

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