FutureStructure

Semi-Autonomous Trucks to Hit Ohio Turnpike This Spring

California-based Peloton Technology will roll out an evolving vehicle tech known as 'platooning' on the Ohio Turnpike.

by / April 3, 2017

(TNS) — CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ohio this spring will begin a new phase in its autonomous vehicle exploration.

California-based Peloton Technology will roll out an evolving vehicle tech known as 'platooning' on the Ohio Turnpike.

Platooning involves creating pairs of semi-autonomous commercial trucks. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication allows the vehicles to travel close together, which reduces fuel burn and cuts wind resistance. The trucks communicate on braking and speed.

While the trucks travel closer together than typical on freeways, Ohio Turnpike Executive Director Randy Cole says travelers shouldn't notice much of a difference.

"Peloton tells us that in their operations you won't notice that a truck is following that close," Cole said.

Peloton-operated trucks operate in pairs, follow about 50 feet behind one another, are equipped with forward collision avoidance systems and have a driver in each cab to steer.

And, if a car cuts in between the two trucks, the trucks automatically extend their distance until the car clears the area.

The plan is for Peloton to establish hauling agreements with freight companies in the state, but the specifics can't yet be released, officials say.

"We look forward to continuing our discussions with Randy Cole and other Ohio officials in order to identify suitable highways for platooning in the state," Geoff Johnson, external affairs strategist for Peloton, said in an emailed response.

The turnpike is ideally positioned because it is "relatively straight and relatively flat," Cole said. And the turnpike already has been used as an autonomous vehicle testing ground.

"Peloton's driver-assistive truck platooning system is used only in appropriate traffic, weather and road conditions on multi-lane, divided, limited-access highways, such as the Ohio Turnpike, where fleets interested in adopting the technology tend to log most of their miles," Johnson said.

Peloton is interested in working with the Smart Belt Coalition, a collaboration among transportation agencies and academic institutions in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania to advance autonomous and connected vehicle technology, to devise a multi-state truck platooning effort.

"We are interested in developing multi-state platooning activities with fleet customers, whose routes are often multi-state, and with state officials. We are also working with fleet customers whose use regional haul operations with routes that stay within given states," Johnson said.

Peloton already has completed tests in the U.S., including in Utah and Texas.

Platooning Footage - Utah from Peloton Technology on Vimeo.

The platooning efforts are the next step in the turnpike's foray into autonomous and connected vehicle research. Last fall, Otto - the self-driving truck company owned by Uber - began testing on the turnpike.

The turnpike is one of a handful of roads in the state designated as a smart highway. Both I-90 in Lake County and the Smart Mobility Corridor - a 35-mile stretch of road outside of Columbus - also have been identified as testing routes.

Cole said testing with Otto is expected to resume this spring and has not been affected by the lawsuit between Uber and Google over Otto's technology.

©2017 The Plain Dealer, Cleveland. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.