Peloton Aims to Bring Adaptive Cruise Control to the Truck Industry
June 3, 2014 4:57 PM
Ported consumer tech offers greater fuel efficiency gains for long-haul than any other tech, firm says
C. W. McCall's hit song "
" and the
derivative 1978 film
inspired fascination with the commonly witnessed formation of trucks. But aside from the perks of fraternity and breaking from the monotony of the lonely road, are there more quantifiable advantages from a business and scientific perspective that encourage convoys to form?
It turns out there are.
A Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup --
-- is treading uncharted waters with its technology to enable a location-aware, connected fleet of trucks. The first half of the idea is a matchmaking service of sorts to find trucking partners near you to hook up with, while on the road during a long haul.
The second part of Peloton's offering is a semi-automated driving system, which maintains the "platooned" trucks (trucks in a convoy formation) at an optimum distance -- typically 33 feet. Consumer vehicles already have this technology in some models, typically referred to as "
adaptive cruise control
". The technology governs speed and braking at certain conditions, but requires the driver to handle steering (in all conditions) and take over if more challenging conditions are encountered.
Translating that technology from small passenger vehicles to massive 18-wheeler trucks is a daunting task, but Peloton and its academic partner,
, think they have a compelling and safe system.
Peloton's initial tests of that system come courtesy of an ongoing series of studies funded by the
U.S. Department of Transportation
U.S. Department of Energy
(DOE), and other sources. Working with suppliers -- including PACCAR Inc. (
) subsidiary Peterbilt, Denso Corp. (
), and various others. The finished system includes:
Cellular link to Peloton's networks
GPS unit (for geotracking)
Wi-Fi link for intervehicle communication
Radar to sense the difference between vehicles.
The collaborators tested the technology on the fleet of privately owned C.R. England, a U.S. trucking firm that
as "nation's largest refrigerated transportation company."
C.R. England trucks hook up and "platoon", using wireless technology.
Here's some of the findings of the test, which was performed in the state of Nevada:
Why a Convoy?
40% of operating costs of a long haul trucker come from fuel
10% of U.S. oil use and related carbon emissions comes from the long-haul trucking industry
Convoy driving is also known as "platooning"
Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications
"Geo-fencing enables trucks to platoon only on safe roads, in safe conditions, and by safe drivers"
Fuel Savings From Convoy Driving
7% average fuel economy improvement at 65mph
10% for the rear truck
4.5% for the lead truck
Better savings than any other available fuel economy improvement technology for trucks
Potential $6B USD industry wide savings
Peloton plans monetize its system in two ways. First, it sells the hardware to truckers to connect to Peloton's networks, which set them up with matches. Second, for every mile the trucks are driving in a matchmaking-generated convoy formation, Peloton and the fleet company divide the savings.
Here's a video of the technology in action:
Clearly, this automated driving technology is just the tip of the iceberg, with
fully automated, driverless technologies
like Google Inc.'s (
on the horizon. But if Peloton can pull off its objective -- offering the first commercially available matchmaking and adaptive cruise control system for freight trucks -- it could in the nearer term achieve a significant accomplishment in its own right: transforming the old-fashioned convoy into a safer, more cost-effective high-tech successor.
Peloton [on YouTube]
"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
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