'Truck platoons' could become modern-day convoy

January 22, 2019 10:52 PM

Minnesota lawmakers spent part of Tuesday getting a glimpse into a future that could one day lead to driver-less semi-trucks. We're not there yet, but the technology practically is and the state could at least take a step in that direction.

"The platooning systems that we're working on are based on decades of (research and development)," Stephen Boyd of Peloton Technology told members of the Minnesota Senate Transportation Committee.

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He's referring to truck platooning, a system where one truck can closely follow another with the driver in the first truck controlling the accelerator and brakes. The second driver simply keeps their hands on the wheel of their truck.

Research and experience in states like Texas and Florida shows the lead truck can save 4.5 percent in fuel cost, and the second truck saves up to 10 percent by drafting closely behind the first. That can add up to big savings over millions of miles.


Seventeen states already have laws on the books making automated commercial trucking legal.


However, the trucking industry needs a change in Minnesota law that now says trucks need to stay 500 feet behind other vehicles. The optimal platooning distance is 40 to 60 feet.

Experts say most drivers in other states where truck platooning is now happening haven't experienced many problems.


More from KSTP: 

Bill bans driverless vehicle tests in Minnesota

Driverless buses aren't coming to Minnesota – they're here


"What we have found is that motorists don't notice that the trucks are platooning because trucks are often traveling very close already," Boyd told the Senate panel.

No bill has been introduced yet regarding truck platoons. The hearing on Tuesday was just informational.


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