Findings From a Pilot Study Conducted in Florida Are Used to Provide Guidelines For the Safe Operation of Vehicles Equipped With Driver Assistive Truck Platooning Technology.
Driver Assistive Truck Platooning (DATP) is a vehicle automation and safety technology that integrates sensors, wireless vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, and active safety systems to synchronize acceleration and braking between two vehicles. DATP has the potential to reduce the cost of goods movement for freight carriers, the savings from which can be passed on to consumers. The objective of this study was to provide research required to assist the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and Florida’s Turnpike Enterprises (FTE) in the development of an analysis of DATP in Florida and guidelines for implementation. Key questions studied focused on the methods and measures required for (i) informed planning and policy decisions regarding DATP, (ii) the DATP effects on transportation infrastructure, (iii) the use and safe operation of DATP, particularly in terms of how DATP may impact the traveling public. An DATP Pilot took place between December 18 and 19, 2017 on the Florida Turnpike, involving two routes that were run multiple times. The “Long Route” was a 295-mile round trip from FTE Headquarters at Turkey Lake to Route 706. The “Short Route,” used for demonstrations to public officials and fleet representatives, was a 16-mile round trip from FTE Headquarters to Route 50. A total distance of 1,215 miles was driven, platooning in low to moderate traffic conditions during daylight as well as dusk. The lessons learned were assembled from the pilot study and feedback and suggestions obtained during stakeholder meetings.
- Include capacity change considerations with higher truck platooning penetration when evaluating the benefits of DATP. During the planning phase, DATP’s applicability for urban and rural road segments and potential net benefit should be assessed. Capacity increases can also be theorized for rural highways, but these are typical road segments in which there is spare capacity. Moreover, if a simulation-based approach is used to evaluate the benefits, the acceleration and deceleration setting in the model should be carefully reviewed, if funding allows, to predict anticipated operational and environmental benefits.
- Identify structures that should be geo-fenced as restricted platooning zones. It was recommended in this study to devise processes that notify DATP permit holders about locations unfit for platooning due to infrastructural factors that could pose issues for DATP (such as deficient bridges, dense interchange areas, cons) so that they can be avoided.
- Keep Enforcement personnel informed about DATP-capable tractors. Different states could have varying enforcement laws regarding truck platooning distance. For example, in Florida, truck drivers are prohibited from following closer than 300 feet. Once DATP-capable tractors are deployed, in order for police officers to distinguish these vehicles, a state-issued decal indicating whether a tractor is DATP- capable and platooning could be implemented. This was seen as a practical approach for the early phase deployment, the efficacy of which would be evaluated after the initial phase of operations.
- Allow DATP operations on any limited access, multi-lane, divided highway, or lanes currently allowable for trucks. Decision to platoon on a particular road segment should be based on the driver and systems assessment of immediate traffic conditions, considerations for topography, work zone and weather and guidance from road authorities. Empirical data should be collected to further understand any disruptions to traffic with increased proliferation of DATP operations.
- Conduct modeling, simulation, and empirical studies to gain a more complete understanding of bridge effects from various DATP configurations and following distances. It was stated in this study that within Florida, no bridges would be of concern with legally loaded two-truck platoons operating at 60-foot spacing, and less than one percent of bridges would be of concern at 30-foot spacing. First generation DATP systems were expected to operate at spacing over 30 feet. For any smaller spacing, the impact of DATP should be analyzed via simulation and empirical studies.
- Keep the requirements and mechanism for issuing permits relatively simple. This would not create a state-specific burden on the industry as DATP drivers are fully engaged in the driving tasks and the use of DATP is not significantly different from regular driving.
- Implement a process to issue DATP-specific permits on a per-vehicle basis. State-issued decals should be affixed to DATP-capable trucks at locations specified by the state. There should be measures that ensure drivers of DATP – equipped vehicles are carrying necessary documents indicative of them having completed the required training if the vehicle is equipped with platooning and has supporting safety systems.