A project led by the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) will test a pair of platooning trucks on Alberta highways between November and April, in one of Canada’s latest semi-autonomous vehicle demonstrations.
Bison Transport will operate the sensor-connected Peterbilt 579s – dubbed Daisy and Lilly – under the Cooperative Truck Platooning System project, which benefits from $2.3 million in Transport Canada funding.
Drivers will be training around Rocky View, Alberta, before beginning the project, the association said in a statement released on Wednesday. Plans for the initiative were first announced in May.
Driver assisting technology from Pronto will rely on sensors, radar and cameras to establish tight following systems between the two trucks. Active braking and acceleration systems in the rear vehicle will respond to the actions of the truck up front.
Closer following distances offer potential benefits such as reduced aerodynamic drag and better fuel efficiency.
Based on earlier tests, the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) says fuel savings likely average close to 4% across two trucks that maintain following distances of 40-50%. Trucks in the rear position of such tests have seen fuel economy increase by as much as 10%.
Transport Canada says 6% fuel economy gains are possible in platoons of three tractor-trailers that each weigh 65,000 lb., when the vehicles are spaced 17.4 meters apart at highway speeds. Earlier tests on a track in Blainville, Que. realized savings as high as 14.2% in a controlled setting.
The AMTA-coordinated demonstration project will run along the Queen Elizabeth II Highway between Calgary and Edmonton, as well as the Trans-Canada Highway between Calgary and Banff. The participating trucks completed performance testing at Transport Canada’s Motor Vehicle Test Center in Blainville, Que., this August.
The Bison truck drivers at the wheel volunteered for the project.
“Safety has become a cornerstone of who Bison Transport is identified with throughout our industry. This initiative aligns perfectly with this core operating philosophy,” Bison Transport said in a related statement.
“Technology and innovation like this will diversity our province’s economy and attract investment,” said Alberta Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney.
The research partnership will also include the University of Alberta, Solaris Fatigue Management, Tantus, PMG Technologies, Esso Commercial Cardlock, and Alberta Transportation.
But this isn’t the only active platooning project in Canada. Robotic Research and FPInnovations are collaborating to develop a platooning system that would work in off-road forestry operations – in that case to potentially address driver shortages.
In late 2018, PIT Group, Transport Canada, Auburn University, and Minimax Express Transportation tested platooning trucks on a 1,000-km route through Montreal, La Tuque, Trois-Rivieres, and Blainville, Que.