Published on April 5, 2017

Autonomous driving technical tests

Interview with Gianmarco Giorda, Director of ANFIA

How is the situation like, today?

We are making good progress. Platooning, i. e. the introduction of semi-automated commercial vehicle convoys between vehicles of the same brand, is already available today and, according to the “EU Road Map for Truck Platooning”, will be available by 2023 even between vehicles of different brands. The introduction of fully autonomous trucks will take longer, but it is expected to become a fairly widespread phenomenon over the next ten years.

What advantages will this leap into the future bring us?

In general, the advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) installed on the vehicle, up to full automation, will allow for lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions – with savings as high as 10% – and higher freight transport safety and efficiency levels. This is because vehicles will be able to share more and more information in real time, exchanging data on their respective positions and speeds. Some ADAS systems have already been proven to reduce collisions between road vehicles by as much as 80%.

And in practical terms? Can you provide some examples?

The benefits in terms of safety come from truck platooning and, in a wider sense, from semi-automated and automated driving technologies. In platooning, the truck at the head of the convoy is the leader, and the vehicles that follow adapt to its movements, requiring almost no action on the part of the driver, so even braking will be automatic and immediate. Each truck in the group is equipped with an advanced remote control platform based on radars, cameras and a GPS system, as well as sophisticated security systems such as the CACC (Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control) and the Advanced Emergency Braking System. Furthermore, it is able to communicate and interact with other trucks in the convoy thanks to Wi-Fi technology.

Interconnection between vehicles, but also between vehicles and infrastructure. What can you tell us about this?

In this precise moment, in five European countries – Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, with more to come – companies involved in pilot projects are testing applications such as Highway Chauffeur – the most advanced highway autonomous driving technology currently available -, as well as truck platooning and telecommunication network functionalities, including network slicing (which allows the creation of multiple virtual networks based on a single shared physical infrastructure) and LTE broadcasting (which allows to send a data stream to everyone in a given area). It is expected that from 2018, functions such as automated parking and the actual implementation of automated driving will become more and more crucial for the evolution of the industry. This also means that testing activities will be launched on the motorway networks that connect different countries within the EU.

Is the road map outlined by the business world enough, or do we need more than this?

We do. A supportive regulatory framework obviously plays a crucial role when it comes to the further development and success of these technologies. For instance, investments in broadband Internet are one of the key factors to allow said technological developments to bring widespread benefits to the entire European economy and society. In general, harmonizing regulations across different countries is a key element when it comes to maximizing these benefits. In short, we need international standards, also in order to obtain derogations and appropriate exemptions for this type of vehicle when traveling from one border to another. All the actors in the system are involved in this transformation: from road infrastructure operators to road transport and insurance companies, and most importantly, politicians.

However, all this technology requires a modern vehicle fleet…

That is true. In Europe, a truck is about 11.7 years old on average, but in general the figures show a fleet of trucks which still needs to be renewed and is not very efficient, both in environmental and in road safety terms, compared to the new vehicles on the market today. The industry in this sector is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through continuous technological innovation applied to fuel consumption, combustion improvements, aerodynamics, low rolling resistance tires and advanced control systems. The combination of several innovative elements (vehicles, fuels, integrated transport systems, driving behavior, etc.) represents the potential to reduce CO2 emissions more successfully as part of an integrated approach.

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