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10/6/2016 12:08:00 PM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Panelists Say Driverless Trucks Decades Away; Platooning Pairs Coming in 2017

John Sommers II for Transport Topics
LAS VEGAS — While driverless, heavy-duty trucks are being considered by accomplished people in technology development, that vision is decades away from reality. But what is coming soon are two-truck platoons.

Several state governments are eager to facilitate this technological leap in freight delivery, and a tech developer with Uber said the company will start by the end of the year a venture to make freight delivery more efficient.

This and lots of details on platoon and autonomous vehicles came out of an Oct. 4 Transport Topics panel discussion at the Management Conference & Exhibition of American Trucking Associations.

Executives from Daimler Trucks North America, Peloton Technology and Uber were joined by a Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles official and a North American Council for Freight Efficiency analyst to give fleet executives in attendance an idea of what’s coming to the industry.

Anthony Levandowski, a founder of Otto, now a division of Uber, offered the most futuristic vision of freight and technology: trucks that don’t need drivers. Just as operators were once required to run elevators and complete telephone calls, Class 8s could follow the same path.

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“Many years from now trucks won’t have a cab,” Levandowski said.

He acknowledged, though, that could be 20 to 30 years in the future.

Josh Switkes, CEO and founder of Peloton Technology, said his company will bring two-truck platoons to U.S. highways sometime next year.

While multitruck platoons are possible, Switkes said he wants to start with pairs that would be connected with wireless links similar to Wi-Fi, only more reliable. Each truck would have a driver and the second truck would follow behind by 40 to 50 feet.

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By Jonathan S. Reiskin
Associate News Editor

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