Register

Peak Oil is You


Donate Bitcoins ;-) or Paypal :-)


Page added on February 11, 2018

Bookmark and Share

Keep on trucking? No, Keep on Platooning!

Keep on trucking? No, Keep on Platooning! thumbnail

 

The concept of “platooning” involves electronically connected trucks running close to each other. It is a much more innovative idea than that of self-driven private cars and it has the potential of revolutionizing road transport by drastically reducing costs. (image from scania.com).

Self-driving cars (or “automated vehicles,” AVs) are all the rage in the debate. In most cases, we have a lot of hype and little evidence but it is also true that such cars are not impossible. So, what can we say about this idea?

I often say that technological progress is subjected to the golden rule that it  generates more problems than it solves. So, not unsurprisingly, the way AVs are normally proposed today, they would solve no important existing problem but would  bring new ones.

In most AVs schemes, you are still supposed to own a car, use it to commute to your job, take your family to a vacation – the only difference with AVs is that you are relieved of the drudgery of having to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. But a recent study reports that, in equivalent conditions of owning a driverless car, people tend to log in more miles and keep their cars circling around rather than bothering about finding a parking space. Not exactly the way to reduce traffic congestion and pollution.


But there is a different application of AVs which may qualify as a true technological breakthrough. It is “platooning.” (Image from The Business Times). At first sight, it doesn’t look like a big innovation. Trucks running close to each other? Didn’t that already exist under the name of “trailers”?

But there is a breakthrough here, and it is a big one. First of all, platooning doesn’t need the massive complication of a completely self-driving car. A platoon of trucks is still supposed to be controlled by humans – all what is needed for platooning are sensors and actuators coupled with some computing control. Then, of course, you need safety equipment to ensure that a “de-platooned” truck doesn’t run awry, but that should not be a problem. Platooning is one of those “sweet” technologies that need only existing subsystems to function.

Then, the advantages. A minor one is that a platooned truck has a lower aerodynamic resistance. But this is peanuts in comparison to the real advantage of the scheme: saving on the cost of personnel. The platooned trucks simply do what the first truck does, there is no need for every truck to have a driver. So, connect two trucks together and you halve the number of drivers needed. Connect three or more, and you proportionally reduce the cost of the human drivers.

Now, according to a recent study of the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the cost of drivers represents 40% of the total transportation cost per mile (p. 24 of the report). You see how big the change could be just in terms of reducing the number of drivers.

But there is more. Right now, there is no interest in slowing down trucks in order to save fuel because the cost of drivers rises proportionally to the number of hours traveled. But for platooning it makes sense to slow down the whole train and reduce fuel costs. Slower trucks also bring less accidents and consequently lower insurance costs. Slower speeds also allow to use smaller engines and simpler technologies. And that would also reduce the need of maintenance of roads and bridges. All these effects come together in bringing costs down.

So, platooning is a big innovation. But it must be seen in light of the evolution of the whole society. Alice Friedemann has argued in her book “When Trucks Stop Running” that trucks are a critical element of the way modern society function. Will we have sufficient resources to keep trucks running in the future, platooning or not?

Surely, a complete societal collapse generated by resource depletion or runaway climate change would necessarily insure that the transportation system would collapse, too. But platooning could make trucking much more resilient. If trucking were to use less energy, trucks could be made to run on electric power provided by batteries or by overhead wires. Current rubber tires are made from petroleum but if the trucks slow down we won’t need so much rubber as we do today and rubber synthesized from biological sources could do the job. The same is true for the asphalt of roads: slower trucks would place a lower strain on road surfaces and we might go back to “Macadamized” roads.

So, platooning is an innovation that we shouldn’t ignore. And, as usual, it will have important impacts – not necessarily good. Substantially lowering the cost of road transport will make it more competitive in comparison to rail. This could further marginalize the already marginal role of railroads in freight transportation. Then, nothing prevents from platooning also buses or other kinds of vehicles, also reducing transportation costs. That might mean the end of railroads, except for high-speed trains where road vehicles can’t compete.

But the truly major effect of platooning is on employment. In the US alone, there are more than 3.5 million truck drivers. Trucking is the most popular medium-skill jobs still available in most of the industrialized world. Platooning may create millions of unemployed drivers. How society will react to that is hard to say, but the shock is likely to be felt.

As usual, we move into the future driven by enthusiasm and by the idea that better technologies automatically mean better life. Platooning is just one of the new technologies which may lead us to some direction that we might not have wanted to take. But we will.

Cassandra’s legacy by Ugo Bardi



74 Comments on "Keep on trucking? No, Keep on Platooning!"

  1. Anonymouse1 on Sun, 11th Feb 2018 7:53 pm 

    Sounds good. Lets replace everyone we can with machines. Think of all the $$$ we’ll save.

    It is not as if Ugo is not aware of the a slight problem with this idea he pushing here. This ‘platooning tech’ already exists, has for …over 100 years in fact.

    They are call ‘trains’. Here is how this bleeding edge technology works. You get something called a ‘locomotive’. THEN, and this is were it gets really high-tech, you string, or ‘couple’ a whole bunch of other train segments, called, ‘freight’ cars behind the so-called ‘locomotive’, in a long, linear chain.

    Now the best part of all is, you don’t need to have an train engineer in each ‘car’ in this ‘platoon’ of train ‘cars’. You only need a small crew at the very front of this ‘platoon’, and they do ALL the work. Imagine that! You can have …..literally dozens of freight cars, or maybe a hundred, all pulled by a single engine. WoW.

    Holy shizzle eh?

    Now where is my nobel prize Ugo!

    Here is a CGI proof-of-concept. A real platoon might look a little different, but….use your imagination and put fins on the train if its not space-age enough for you.

    http://www.trainweb.org/oldtimetrains/photos/cpr_steam/2592.jpg

  2. Outcast_Searcher on Sun, 11th Feb 2018 9:22 pm 

    Anon:

    As though a railroad were as common as a highway.

    As though a locomotive were a semi truck.

    As if more efficient trucking wouldn’t be a good thing, re the reduced drag, etc.

    Why not a rational issue, like the impact on jobs, just like for all the cashier jobs soon to go away via self-ordering and self-pay kiosks and cell phone apps?

  3. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 11th Feb 2018 9:28 pm 

    another dumb idea, brought to you
    by rich people who have too much money.

  4. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 11th Feb 2018 9:33 pm 

    People have emoticons for almost everything.
    how about this one

    h- <#%!#%!$!@$

    It's a burning la-z-boy
    recliner emoticon.

    The "h-" is the recliner,
    and the rest is
    the smoke…

  5. Anonymouse1 on Sun, 11th Feb 2018 10:14 pm 

    Of course railways are not as common as highways, and that too, was by design. A certain oil-auto cartel pushed for the construction and expansion of highways to the exclusion of all else, and made sure rail, was essentially starved of resources. The world we see around us, is one made by greed and corruption of uS oil corporations. It is not the world that had to be, just the one they bought and paid for. No one got to vote on, or for it.

    For Ugo, I’ve seen truck ‘platoons’ on numoerus occasions over the years-real ones, but not in the goofy manner he suggests above. Ive seen it in the mountains, during winter. Long chains, stretching for kilometers, of slow-moving 18 wheelers in blizzard-like conditions. Being anywhere near one of those ‘platoons’, in those conditions, can only be described one way, scary. And that is with every single one having a driver. They look a lot less inviting in a mountain pass in near white out conditions, than they do in that computer-generated picture would suggest.

    If ugo ever got caught up in a actual 18-wheeler ‘platoon’, I doubt he would want to repeat the experience.

  6. Mad Kat on Sun, 11th Feb 2018 10:26 pm 

    Anon, I think they are called convoys in trucker terms when the driver is a real person. As you said, the concept is not new. And I do not want to be on the highway with a robot whatever.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077369/

    “Convoy” the movie. 1978

  7. Sissyfuss on Sun, 11th Feb 2018 10:29 pm 

    On some of the toll roads in the Midwest they have one truck hauling three full size trailers. The design has improved so you don’t get the whiplash effect of the last trailer swerving back and forth. Improve it a little more and haul 6 or 8 trailers. No need for platooning.

  8. MASTERMIND on Sun, 11th Feb 2018 10:31 pm 

    I bet Madkat had many trucker friends in America. He worked as a construction worker! LOL And he thinks he is some genius!

  9. Mad Kat on Sun, 11th Feb 2018 10:32 pm 

    I can see them being protected by one of these…

    https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-02-10/meet-us-armys-latest-killer-robotic-humvees

    How long before your local sheriff has one? LOL

  10. Dark Fired Tobacco on Sun, 11th Feb 2018 11:54 pm 

    The article misrepresents the automated vehicle. Individuals will not own such units, as they will be too expensive. They will be dispersed as fleets. You will schedule one; it will arrive at your door, likely with a neighbor already aboard. It will carry you to a nearby destination or to a mass transit station (if you are in a large city with a destination across town.) You will board the mass transit unit (light rail, high speed bus, shuttle, etc.), then catch another AV at the terminus to take you to your final destination. Parking lots and parking garages will not exist.

  11. GregT on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 12:10 am 

    “I bet Madkat had many trucker friends in America.”

    I’d be willing to bet that Mad Kat has more trucker friends alone, than you have friends at all.

  12. GregT on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 12:17 am 

    “And he thinks he is some genius!”

    He didn’t choose MASTERMIND, in all caps yet, as his username.

    It’s blatantly obvious who it is that thinks that he is a genius. That would be you MM, and you haven’t displayed the most remote semblance of intelligence
    since you’ve been trolling this forum.

  13. anon on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 12:21 am 

    on the one hand, one could look at this from the technological perspective and say, next step, put it on rails and call it a train already.
    On the other hand from a broader perspective, what the hell is up with this recent fetsh for self-driving vehicles? is that the only thing this gasping, near-dead, depserate civilization can come up with to keep dreaming of its jetsons techno-utopia future?
    or is it just all they could come up with as hype to run another round of the wealth transfer game, selling ‘progress’ to the rubes?

  14. Mad Kat on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 1:28 am 

    Greg, and biker friends. LOL

    BTW: I agree that Theedrich is the most intelligent person here. Then, at the other end … the three stooges, Davy, MM and Boat.

  15. MASTERMIND on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 7:38 am 

    Yea Theedrich is the most intelligent if you judge intelligence on hate and bigotry…
    Hail Hitler!

  16. MASTERMIND on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 7:41 am 

    If only we could take Theedrich.Greg, and madkats hate and convert it into energy! We could power the whole world!

  17. Cloggie on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 10:07 am 

    what the hell is up with this recent fetsh for self-driving vehicles? is that the only thing this gasping, near-dead, depserate civilization can come up with to keep dreaming of its jetsons techno-utopia future?

    It is much more than just another “gadget”, it is a majestic transfer of the car from the private to the public realm.

    It is THE solution to keep a society mobile in a time of decreasing wealth. It means the abolishing of private car ownership towards the car as a small bus/van for “fine-grained transportation” with guaranteed door-to-door delivery. As an extra bonus, travelling time no longer is wasted time. The potential downside is: loss of privacy and you have to endure travelling with strangers. Cost reduction per mile is estimated to be several factors lower as:

    1. the same car is on the road much more often
    2. car-sharing

  18. MASTERMIND on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 10:29 am 

    what the hell is up with this recent fetsh for self-driving vehicles? is that the only thing this gasping, near-dead, depserate civilization can come up with to keep dreaming of its jetsons techno-utopia future?

    Nailed it! It keeps the dream alive that the future is so bright! Distract the sheep before we go over the edge and run out of oil and collapse!

  19. tommywantshismommy on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 2:27 pm 

    MASTERMIND- I think one reason i could see is the aging population. Grandma can have her car drive her out to the mailbox to pick up her weekly Aldis ad. Grandpa can have the Buick Regal AI 2020 drive him to the hospital to have his monthly colon cleansing.

  20. Alice Friedemann on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 4:18 pm 

    Bardi writes: “Platooning is a big innovation. But it must be seen in light of the evolution of the whole society. Alice Friedemann has argued in her book “When Trucks Stop Running” that trucks are a critical element of the way modern society function…. If trucking were to use less energy, trucks could be made to run on electric power provided by batteries or by overhead wires.”

    NO THEY CAN’T! How could anyone read my book and say that? Batteries weigh too much, overhead wires are too expensive and it’s hard to imagine how you could produce enough electricity now, let alone in the future as natural gas and coal decline, and half our nuclear power plants shut down within the next 20-30 years. And so on…

    The government-industry super-truck project has already come up with ways to double truck fuel use with low-resistance wheels, light-weighting, aerodynamic panels, and so on. Also, trucks are incredibly energy efficient when looked at with the correct term “tons per gallon”, not “miles per gallon”.

    Platooning won’t work because you would be hard put to find two, let alone seven trucks with the same origin and destination, that also want to leave at the same time, and 96% of trucking companies are poor, with perhaps a few to 20 trucks and don’t have the money to buy high-tech platooning trucks, super-trucks, let alone non-and-never-existent battery operated or dual-propulsion catenary trucks (they need to have an alternative way to move after they get off the lines to deliver cargo).

    Clearly the way to go is lower speeds (the more a truck goes over 55 the more fuel is used due to air resistance), LESS CONSUMPTION, stopping just in time delivery so that trucks arrive completely full instead of half full with just what’s needed. And for the return trip, a “dating” service – a truck uber if you will — to fill the truck up with goods so it’s full on the way back and not empty. But Americans want everything RIGHT NOW, hence just-in-time delivery, which is by far the biggest waste of fuel.

    Rail could carry a lot more cargo than it does. But again: just-in-time delivery is more important than conserving finite oil for most businesses.

    Oh well, the status quo shortens the time we hit the brick wall, and half of me wants a sudden hard crash for the sake of biodiversity and the recovery of the planet. But the other half of me still gets mad at the greed and insanity of the capitalist economic system, and the rapacious few who grow rich off of destroying the planet.

  21. CAM on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 4:26 pm 

    Imagine trying to exit the interstate with a platoon of trucks in the right lane a couple feet apart. Oh well, guess you just go to the next exit. And good luck on merges.

  22. Davy on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 5:38 pm 

    Yea, Alice, I too am torn between ending the the status quo to save our planet and the realization that end will end civilization as we know it. There are many ways we could adapt and mitigate our rendezvous with a systematic brick wall but we won’t at the macro level. We could extend out the worst and still live comfortably but we won’t because of the lack of consensus on what is ahead. At the local level we can and this is why we must alert anyone who cares of the dangers ahead for the unprepared. Individually there is transformative potential.

  23. MASTERMIND on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 5:56 pm 

    Davy

    Alerting people doesn’t work at all. All you do is drive them in the opposite direction. If you want to go screaming the end of the world is coming! Then everyone will just think you are a religious nutter! or worse! People want so desperately for the system to work, they will believe in it till the end.

  24. GregT on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 6:05 pm 

    “Oh well, the status quo shortens the time we hit the brick wall, and half of me wants a sudden hard crash for the sake of biodiversity and the recovery of the planet. But the other half of me still gets mad at the greed and insanity of the capitalist economic system, and the rapacious few who grow rich off of destroying the planet.”

    My sentiments exactly.

  25. makati1 on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 6:11 pm 

    I second Alice’s comment. Right on!

  26. GregT on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 6:14 pm 

    “If you want to go screaming the end of the world is coming! Then everyone will just think you are a religious nutter! or worse!”

    Looked in a mirror lately MM?

  27. MASTERMIND on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 6:14 pm 

    People always say again: We need to save our planet. No, we do not. The planet is going to save itself already. It always has done. Sometimes it took millions of years, but it happened. We should not be worried about the planet, but about the human species.

    -Dennis Meadows

  28. MASTERMIND on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 6:16 pm 

    Greg screaming it over a doomer blog with a fake name is not the same as in real life..False equivalency.

  29. makati1 on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 6:33 pm 

    Greg, Davy and MM do not own mirrors. They only reflect their reality. Neither can accept it.

  30. GregT on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 7:06 pm 

    “Greg screaming it over a doomer blog with a fake name is not the same”

    Not only is PO.com not a doomer blog MM, it isn’t a blog period.

  31. Davy on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 7:09 pm 

    sure billyt, is that all you have to say? More worn out clichés from the master dork. One sentence is about all you are worth anyway. It is hilarious how you come out of your shell when your buddies are out to protect and enable you. Pussies behave like that. They are afraid to face those who are superior to them. Obviously you are inferior in intellect.

  32. GregT on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 7:24 pm 

    “They are afraid to face those who are superior to them. Obviously you are inferior in intellect.”

    Nut. Bar.

  33. Anonymouse1 on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 7:41 pm 

    Common, Greg, According to the recent survey, the exceptionalist was voted the smartest guy in the room.

    *Survey has a sample size of one, and has a margin of error +\- 100%.

  34. MASTERMIND on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 7:47 pm 

    Madkat and Greg

    Our global society is too intertwined to argue that collapse will envelope only one geographic part of civilization.

  35. GregT on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 7:50 pm 

    MM,

    What you consider to be civilization, is already not enjoyed by some 70% of humanity.

  36. GregT on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 8:00 pm 

    1.2 billion people on this planet don’t even have access to electricity.

  37. MASTERMIND on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 9:19 pm 

    Woman lists off West Virginia legislators’ industrial donors, gets “dragged” from state hearing

    https://www.salon.com/2018/02/12/woman-lists-off-west-virginia-legislators-industrial-donors-gets-dragged-from-hearing/

  38. makati1 on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 9:56 pm 

    Greg, most Americans have no idea of the real world. I keep saying that billions will hardy notice a crash. They have no “conveniences” to lose. No electric. No running water. No healthcare. Nothing but existence and hard work, which is not new to them.

    It will be a severe shock to Americans though. Cutting their consumption from about 25% of the world’s resources to <5% will destroy many of them. Many millions will die in the first year. So be it. Well deserved.

  39. GregT on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 10:11 pm 

    It will be a severe shock to most Canadians as well makati, and Canada uses more energy per capita than the US does.

  40. Cloggie on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 10:23 pm 

    “Pussies behave like that. They are afraid to face those who are superior to them. Obviously you are inferior in intellect.”

    Ready for a thoroug WW2 discussion yet, Batman?

    Oh wait, you have “bigger fish to fry”, like finally carting that pile of goat shit to the road side, to be used as fertilizer for neighbor.

    Got it.

  41. MASTERMIND on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 10:37 pm 

    Madkat and Greg

    Billion will notice the crash when they start coughing up their internal organs from radiation sickness when all the nuke plants melt down and explode!

  42. Cloggie on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 10:43 pm 

    “It will be a severe shock to most Canadians as well makati, and Canada uses more energy per capita than the US does.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_in_Canada

    58% hydro. And insane amounts of kwh/capita.

    Canadians per capita use 3.5 times as much energy and 3.5 times as much electricity as, say, Croats.

    Life in Croatia is fine.

    On top of that, Canadians have endless forest resources.

    They will drive a lot less though, in packed self-driving vans, staring at their gadgets, at 15% of the old energy tally for the same trip.

    I don’t think Canadians will return to the cave. Beltthetering and localization of life will do the trick.

  43. GregT on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 10:55 pm 

    “Beltthetering and localization of life will do the trick.”

    Which of humanity’s existential threats do you think will be solved by alternate electric power generation Cloggie?

  44. MASTERMIND on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 11:03 pm 

    CLogg said

    They will drive a lot less though, in packed self-driving vans, staring at their gadgets, at 15% of the old energy tally for the same trip.

    HAHAHAAHAH! What a fucking retard! the last grasp of the jetsons techno utopia!

  45. GregT on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 11:03 pm 

    “Billion will notice the crash when they start coughing up their internal organs from radiation sickness when all the nuke plants melt down and explode!”

    We’ve already been down this road before MM. Try a more realistic prediction of doom and gloom. Like say Arctic amplification, or ocean acidification.

  46. GregT on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 11:06 pm 

    “HAHAHAAHAH! What a fucking retard! the last grasp of the jetsons techno utopia!”

    There’s only really one viable option MM. A vast reduction in energy consumption, much lower standards of living, and learning how to get by with a lot less of everything.

  47. MASTERMIND on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 11:06 pm 

    Greg

    Why can’t we talk about it again? I get the feeling you don’t though..That is very telling….

  48. MASTERMIND on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 11:08 pm 

    Greg

    There’s only really one viable option MM. A vast reduction in energy consumption, much lower standards of living, and learning how to get by with a lot less of everything.

    A smooth regression is hard to imagine…I know you are praying for that though because without the rule of law you are dead meat in your cabin in the woods! LOL

  49. Cloggie on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 11:09 pm 

    “Which of humanity’s existential threats do you think will be solved by alternate electric power generation Cloggie?”

    Climate change.

  50. GregT on Mon, 12th Feb 2018 11:09 pm 

    For starters MM, people don’t cough up their internal organs from radiation exposure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *