December 3, 2020
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DriveOhio – an initiative of the Ohio Department of Transportation – along with the Michigan Department of Transportation and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, are just some of the key agencies working within a multi-state coalition to jointly deploy and test truck-platooning technology on public highways.

[Above photo by the Ohio DOT.]

The Smart Belt Coalition – which also includes the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission – helped truck technology firm Locomation conduct a truck-platoon delivery run from Pittsburgh through Ohio to Detroit on October 22.

Travelling more than 280 miles, the company made a delivery of groceries from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Foodbank to the Toledo Northwestern Ohio Foodbank and then to the Forgotten Harvest Food Bank in Detroit as part of COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts.

Truck platooning is the linking of two or more trucks in convoy using connectivity technology and automated driving support systems. The vehicles automatically maintain a set – yet very close – distance between each other when connected electronically in order to boost fuel economy.

During the demonstration, two platooning tractor-trailers operated manually on local streets. Then, when on interstates and turnpikes, with the lead truck in manual control, the driver of the following tractor-trailer engaged the vehicle’s autonomous platooning system so it automatically followed the lead vehicle in the platoon. While truck platooning is considered SAE Level I automation, both vehicles had an operator on board at all times.

The state agencies involved said this test effort would result in a “lessons learned” document on the steps needed to facilitate a truck platooning and automated driving system operation across jurisdictional boundaries.

Gov. Mike DeWine

“In Ohio, we are designing and deploying the transportation system of the 21st century,” explained Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) in a statement.

“Safety is our primary concern, and as smart mobility technologies mature, we believe these innovations will make our roads safer. Deployments, like this one, will help to inform future projects,” he added.

“As a state that has always been at the forefront of innovation and industry, it should be no surprise that Pennsylvania is an epicenter for automated vehicle research and development,” noted Yassmin Gramian, PennDOT’s secretary, in a separate statement.

“As stewards of transportation safety and mobility in Pennsylvania, PennDOT has a critical role in helping to ensure that this new technology is developed and tested safely,” she said.

“Many amazing things are happening in the automated vehicle space and truck platooning is an example of that,” noted Mark Compton, PA Turnpike Commission CEO.

“However, we seek to be strategic about these developments and above all – safe,” he added. “The Smart Belt Coalition is a coordinated effort [that] crosses state lines and makes it possible for us to be engaged in tech-enabled business and transportation trends. Working together, we will be able to more effectively advance these emerging technologies for all motorists.”

editor@aashto.org

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