The idea of platooning has been tossed back and forth in the trucking industry for a few years now. Some saw it as a solution. Others saw it as a slippery slope to replacing the human element in the trucking industry. However, with a major player in the trucking industry weighing in, opinions seem to be more split than ever.
A Platooning Primer
Platooning is a semi-autonomous approach to trucking. A lead truck with a human driver is able to command a small group of self-driving trucks. The idea of platooning has been put forth as a means to solve the driver shortage as well as the increased demands for capacity from shippers. A group of trucks going to the same destination would be able to communicate and stay in a loose formation on highways. While this seemed to address a number of issues, opponents saw platooning as moving the trucking industry closer to the “robot revolution” and massive layoffs from autonomous vehicles.
Daimler Speaks Against Platooning
Daimler is one of the world’s largest truck manufacturers, and they recently made a public statement that they do not see a viable use for platooning. Instead of turning the topic into a human interest story, Daimler’s case was structured around pragmatic business sense. One of the big benefits from platooning was supposed to be savings on fuel expenses. Daimler actually tested a number of platooning projects over the past year, and the conclusion was that the savings were not significant. This has not stopped Daimler from researching fully-autonomous trucks.
It’s Not Over Yet
Daimler is the first heavy-hitter to cast doubts on platooning trucks. Thus far, no one else has really jumped ship. Volvo, Alphabet’s Waymo, and others are continuing to develop platooning tech, even going so far as to showcase platooning over the past year. Major players would not continue development if it wasn’t a viable business decision, and if the market wasn’t there. Platooning may not have a future in the trucking industry – yet. But if further development can increase efficiency, platooning may eventually be a solution to offset the driver shortage and meet the increasing demands from shippers.