Jun 062015

Dear IFRTT subscribers!

A Dutch author marked the start of spring by the day that women go out on the street wearing skirts. In Holland we start taking off our clothes as soon as temperatures pass 15 degrees Celsius. Warm days are scarce. He called it ‘rokjesdag’: (short) skirt day. Unfortunately we had a relatively cold month of May with an average temperature of 12 degrees Celsius.

From skirts to the European Platooning Truck Challenge is just a small step. Autonomous driving is hot at the moment. Several European countries did already Field Operational Tests on public roads in real-time traffic with self-driving vehicles or are planning to have tests. All on a small scale and within the national borders. The Presidency of the European Commission moves every half year to another country. The Netherlands will be in charge in the first half of 2016. We took this opportunity to launch the initiative of a European Platooning Truck Challenge for the 14th of April 2016. The idea is that on one day several platoons of self-driving trucks drive to Rotterdam from diverse directions, by example from Sweden, Poland, Germany, Austria, France and the UK.

The purpose is to find out the cross border issues coming with platooning trucks. Each front running country is developing her own deployment rules and procedures. But the greatest benefits for the environment, traffic safety and logistics efficiency will manifest with the increasing scale of operating. And if each country defines her own framework of deployment, the time inevitably will come that Europe has to negotiate on harmonization issues. It is more efficient to start in an early stage with exchanging experiences, knowledge and practices. In countries like the US and Australia, the situation will be the same with the federal states.

To organize a multilateral one day event is a challenge in itself. The Netherlands has to win over truck manufacturers and member states to participate in the initiative in just nine months. But if we succeed, it could be a great step forwards for autonomous driving in Europe. Of course there are major challenges that have to be overcome with autonomous driving in general and platooning in particular. To name some issues: insurance, privacy, security, traffic management, traffic safety, infrastructure etc. We will not be able to tackle them in the short term and it is highly uncertain in what direction autonomous driving will go. In any way it will be revolutionary.

Anyone that can somehow contribute to the realization of the initiative of the European Platooning Truck Challenge is welcome to contact me.

Kind regards and drive safely!

Loes Aarts

Vice-president Europe

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