The European Truck Platooning Challenge is under way with participants scheduled to arrive in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, tomorrow.
Six truck manufacturers are taking part in the European Truck Platooning Challenge, which is being run by the current president of the European Council. Among the truck makers taking part are Scania, Mercedes-Benz and Iveco.
Daimler Trucks is participating with three self-driving Mercedes-Benz Actros semi-trailers that have set off from the company's museum in Stuttgart.
If all goes according to plan the three trucks will travel in convoy along Autobahns and highways for most of the 600 or so kilometres between the two European cities.
The three Actros trucks are fitted with latest version the company's autonomous driving software, dubbed Highway Pilot Connect. Compared to earlier iterations, the latest software package allows nearby trucks to communicate with each other via Wi-Fi.
When operating in platoon mode, the trucks travel with just 15 metres between them. All up, the three-truck convoy will only require 80 metres of road space from end to end when in platoon.
As these vehicles are following each other so closely, the second and third trucks in the convoy can ride in the slipstream of the vehicle in front of it. Daimler claims that this slipstreaming will reduce fuel usage by 10 percent during the journey.
By way of comparison, if these trucks were driven by humans, they would require around 50 metres between each vehicle and take up a total of 150 metres of road.
Above: the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 concept
According to Daimler, the platoon of self-driving trucks should be safer too, as the Highway Pilot Connect system has a braking reaction time of under 0.1 seconds, considerably faster than the roughly 1.4 seconds required by a human driver.
Scania set off earlier this week from its base in Södertälje, Sweden, with a three-truck convoy. The fastest route between Södertälje and Rotterdam clocks in at 1440km, but the company is swinging by Belgium and the Zolder race track to participate in a demonstration event.
Like Daimler's trucks, the vehicles in Scania's convoy communicate with each other via Wi-Fi. Unlike the Daimler fleet, the lead truck in Scania's convoy is driven by a human being. The other trucks follow behind using Wi-Fi, and showroom-spec camera and radar equipment to maintain a safe distance of around 0.5 seconds.
Iveco is undertaking a shorter journey with just two semi-autonomous trucks from Brussels, Belgium to Rotterdam.