By on April 5, 2016

Mercedes-Benz Actros

If you’re planning to drive between the Netherlands and Germany tomorrow, just know that self-aware trucks will be out there.

Convoys of automated transport trucks will be plying the highways between Stuttgart and Rotterdam as part of the European Truck Platooning Challenge, an initiative created by the Netherlands to develop and showcase connected vehicle technology.

Platooning involves transports travelling in a tightly-packed column at a uniform speed in order to achieve better fuel efficiency and reduce roadway congestion. The installation of autonomous technology in transports means further efficiencies, with connected vehicles being able to coordinate speed, distance and braking more effectively than human drivers.

Three autonomous Mercedes-Benz Actros will be taking part in the cross-border challenge, participating with five other European truck manufacturers. The trucks will use the automaker’s Highway Pilot Connect system to guide them in their journey. That technology, demonstrated publicly for the first time two weeks ago, is an upgraded version of the existing Highway Pilot system used by transports.

A side aim of the platooning challenge is to spur the creation of cross-border regulations allowing automated convoys on European Union highways.

“Driving in a convoy is one of numerous examples to raise the performance of goods transport extensively with connected trucks,” stated Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, the board member in charge of Daimler’s trucks and buses, in a release. “Today already 365,000 commercial vehicles of Daimler are connected. We are consequently pushing this development.”

Parent company Daimler is the only manufacturer with worldwide road approval for its automated trucks.

The three vehicles heading to Rotterdam will be spaced 15 metres (49.2 feet) apart, instead of the 50 metres (164 feet) required of human drivers, leading to reduced aerodynamic drag and an anticipated fuel savings of 10 percent for the convoy.

It should be pointed out that this autonomous challenge comes 30 years after a fleet of self-driving trucks terrorized a small truck stop near Wilmington, North Carolina.

[Image: Daimler AG]

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