On the heels of the first-ever Canadian truck platooning trials on forest resource roads last year, FPlnnovations and partners Resolute Forest Products and Auburn University, have successfully conducted new platooning trials near La Tuque, Quebec, north of Trois Rivières, to test the system’s new features.
The July trials demonstrated that platooning technology can be adapted to perform under a wide variety of real-life operating conditions. The trials, conducted over a thousand kilometres, focused on the system’s ability to control the steering on the following truck, as well as the acceleration and braking systems.
The latest tests correspond to level 2 of SAE’s international standards for driving automation. Level 2 requires a driver at the wheel of all trucks in a platoon to supervise the driving, even though the computer system performs several tasks. At level 4— the desired goal of the project, only one lead driver is required in the first truck. SAE International is an association of technical experts in the aerospace, automotive, and commercial-vehicle industries.
“We’re taking truck platooning on resource roads one step further and we aim to keep up the pace,” says Mathieu Blouin, FPlnnovations business development manager. “We’re increasing the complexity of the trials to get closer to real-world operations so that the system is able to respond safely to all the situations it will face.”
Resolute Forest Products has been a supporter of FPInnovations’ platooning tests since day one. “Resolute Forest Products is proud to support continued trucking trials,” says Jonathan Perron, director of forest operations for Resolute Forest Products. “It is important for us to align the development of new technologies with our operational realities, which is what these tests allow us to do.”
Several sectors to benefit from platooning
Representatives from several industries, such as mining and defence, also observed a platooning demonstration and rode in the trucks during the trials. Blouin notes platooning technology can benefit several industries that are experiencing similar challenges, such as a skilled-driver shortage. The technology is seen as a viable solution to the situation and may attract a new generation of skilled workers to those sectors.
“Truck platooning is a technology that Agnico Eagle Mines has included in its innovation roadmap to autonomous operations,” says Dominique Beaudry, corporate director of innovation for Agnico Eagle Mines. “We were encouraged to see the progress being made by FPInnovations and their partners in demonstrating a platooning convoy and we can foresee potential commercial applications in the mining sector in the coming years.”
Blouin says by combining their efforts to achieve the common goal of deploying truck platoons as a matter of standard practice, they will reach the finish line quicker. “We obviously still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we believe that by bringing together the right players and the right technologies, it is possible to accelerate the development of this technology.”
Truck platooning is an emerging vehicle technology in which two or more trucks in a convoy are linked by a computer system that maintains the desired distance between trucks, as well as controls acceleration and braking, reacting faster than a driver can.