Daimler is to end truck platooning trials after real-world testing returned only minimal fuel economy benefits.
After thousands of miles of on-highway testing, Daimler has come to the conclusion that there is no viable business case for truck platoons, and while it remains committed to current projects, will not be embarking on any new platooning trials.
Making the announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, Martin Daum (right), CEO of Daimler Trucks & Buses, said: “Platoons do improve aerodynamics and fuel efficiency considerably in an ideal world, but not in real world traffic.”
He explained that under perfect conditions, coupling two or more trucks electronically at a distance of 15m apart has the ability to boost fuel economy by 4%. However, because of numerous external factors, including terrain and traffic conditions, perfect platooning occurs only 20% of the time. As a result, in real world conditions, the savings are closer to 1%, which he said does not make platooning a viable business proposition.
“Platooning is a lot of hassle, but we would go through that hassle if it meant a 4% fuel saving for our customers. However, it’s not worth it for just 1%.”
When asked whether he thought other truck makers would eventually come to the same conclusion, he said: “Yes. This isn’t a Daimler thing. It’s a simple law of physics.”
But Daum insisted that the several years of trials, which have cost an estimated €50m (£45m), have not been a waste of money, and that lots of things have been learnt. “Before we started, my biggest reservation about platooning was that it would be boring for the second driver, staring at the back of the truck in front,” he said. “But this was never actually a problem, because at 15m you still have good visibility.”
He added that the safety systems always worked perfectly, and were tested frequently “when car drivers made crazy manoeuvres”, forcing themselves between the trucks. “We also learned that drivers need to synchronise their peeing,” he laughed. “Because if a driver stops to pee now, you know the other will need to stop in 30 minutes.”
Daum said: “While we cannot see a business case for platooning, we will keep an eye on it, in case we have missed something. If that is the case, we can always ramp it up again.”