First self-driving trucks on Flemish roads

Summary

Self-driving trucks took off from Antwerp province and Brussels this week to the Netherlands as part of a Dutch test of the vehicles, which are meant to improve road safety and save on fuel costs

Pilot project

Self-driving trucks appeared on Flemish roads for the first time yesterday. The trucks drove from Westerlo and from Brussels to Rotterdam, as part of the Dutch pilot project European Truck Platooning Challenge.

For the project, two self-driving trucks followed another truck in which a driver was controlling the steering. The two self-driving trucks follow at exactly the same speed as the lead truck and also brake automatically at precisely the same moment.

This technique of connecting trucks in a convoy – called “platooning” – works via GPS, radar and wi-fi technology. For this project, however, drivers were sitting behind the wheels of the self-driving truck to intervene if necessary.

As most accidents occur because of human error, and the system reacts more quickly than a driver can, self-driving trucks are meant to improve road safety. They also drive very close to each other, about five to 10 metres, which saves on fuel and means they take up less space on the roads.

Current legislation requires trucks to maintain a distance of at least 50 meters from the vehicle in front of it, so an exception was made for the test. The legal framework may in the future have to be adjusted, mobility minister Ben Weyts told VTM. The technology must also be further fine-tuned before the trucks will become a common sight on the road.

Companies participating in the European Truck Platooning Challenge were Iveco, Mercedes, MAN, DAF, Volvo and Scania.