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Volvo Tests Autonomous Driving Technology On Triangle Expressway

Three FedEx trucks are shown while platooning along a highway.
Courtesy of FedEx

Volvo Trucks North America has been testing autonomous driving technology with tractor-trailers on the Highway 540 Triangle Expressway.

Federal regulators have approved that roadway for tests like these, including Volvo’s advanced driver assistance system, or ADAS.

There are drivers in the trucks, but Volvo's system works like an automated cruise control, regulating the speed and distance between the tractor-trailers, according to Volvo Spokesman Brandon Borgna.

“With platooning technology, the driver is still in control,” Borgna said. “And just as you join a platoon, you can exit a platoon. So the driver does have that control. Keep in mind they're also maintaining lane control, so staying in the lane as appropriate, signaling to get over, make lane changes as needed.”

Borgna said typical motorists might not notice a platoon of test trucks. However, the ADAS regulates speed and breaking -- intended to improve roadway safety. And it also decreases the following distance of the line on trucks, allowing them to draft on one another and improve fuel economy.

Borgna said right now, they're testing the system on platoons of trucks owned by FedEx.

“But as the technology matures and there's broader deployment of it, it's certainly possible for fleets to have their Volvo trucks talking to each other, and even possibly trucks of other manufacturers talking to each other, using this vehicle-to-vehicle communication,” he said.

Borgna said Volvo's advanced driver assistance system has been tested in other countries. The Triangle Expressway is one of the few American roadways that has been approved for autonomous driving technology.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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