In the United States, trucking companies and the Army are both developing systems to automate moving groups of trucks. While trucking companies are mostly interested in “platoons” of trucks drafting off of each other to save fuel, the Army wants its “convoyed” trucks to be hundreds of meters apart to improve their chances of surviving an enemy attack.
While the biggest danger for platoons of commercial trucks is crashing, military convoys can be threatened by attacks with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or rocket-propelled grenades.
Civilian truck drivers also benefit from a robust infrastructure, said Bernard Theisen, division chief for Ground Vehicle Robotics at the U.S. Army’s Ground Vehicles Systems Center (GVSC). For example, nearly all platooning trucks are limited to using roads and highways that have been mapped at centimeter-level resolution with lidar, can communicate over 3G or 4G networks, and have excellent GNSS signals. “I would love to have all that information,” Theisen said, “every time I send a robotic convoy vehicle out there.”