Automated Trucks May Hit the Road by 2020

March 8, 2013 / No Comments

When will we be seeing flying cars like the ones depicted in sci-fi movies? The way technology is advancing it may not be far off. After some years our roads will see self-driving vehicles or at least that’s what the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), a semi-governmental organization in Japan, thinks. NEDO has been carrying out tests with automated vehicles since 2008.

semi trucks 300x202 Automated Trucks May Hit the Road by 2020

In 2010 they tested out a convoy of three programmed cars running 50 feet apart.  By doing this type of tailgating the vehicles behind the leading vehicle will only suffer lower air resistance or drag and thus acquire higher fuel efficiency. The idea is similar to the ‘drifting’ in NASCAR tournaments.

NEDO conducted a recent test on the project with a four-truck convoy trailing. The computer- programmed heavy duty trucks were aligned 13 feet apart with the leading truck driven by a human and the following ones by computer, thus applying the drag reduction. The truck-train program revealed a fuel efficiency of around 15 percent.

The automated trucks were integrated with obstacle detection, white lines detection, cruise control and formation control.  Electronic circuit boards in the vehicles control the formation. For detecting obstacles trucks were implemented with milliwave and infrared laser radars. The white lines on the roads are detected using cameras and IR laser radars.

We hear NEDO is hoping to rollout a practical version of this automated vehicle platoon around the year 2020. They will be carrying out more tests in the coming months.