Pennsylvania coalition gives automated truck platooning demonstration

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The Smart Belt Coalition, a collaboration between transportation agencies, including Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, provided a multi-state demonstration of automated truck platooning.

Automated truck platooning is the term for linking two or more automated trucks in a convoy using the vehicles’ connectivity technology and automated driving support systems. The vehicles automatically maintain a set distance from one another when connected.

The demonstration was a partnership between SBC and Pittsburgh-based tech firm Locomation and saw two trucks drive from Pittsburgh across Ohio and into Michigan. The trucks were carrying food donations between the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, the Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food Bank, and the Forgotten Harvest Food Bank in Detroit.

“As a state that has always been at the forefront of innovation and industry, it should be no surprise that Pennsylvania is an epicenter for automated vehicle research and development, said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “As stewards of transportation safety and mobility in Pennsylvania, PennDOT has a critical role in helping to ensure that this new technology is developed and tested safely.”

Organizers said the demonstration highlighted the agency coordination and administrative and procedural requirements necessary for a “truck platooning system to operate continuously through three states.” Organizers said they will create a “lessons learned” document to outline the steps needed to facilitate truck platooning and automated driving systems across state lines.

“Many amazing things are happening in the automated vehicle space, and truck platooning is an example of that,” said PA Turnpike Commission CEO Mark Compton. “However, we seek to be strategic about these developments and above all – safe. The Smart Belt Coalition is a coordinated effort which crosses state lines and makes it possible for us to be engaged in tech-enabled business and transportation trends. Working together, we will be able to more effectively advance these emerging technologies for all motorists.”