California PATH Rolls into Action at ITS America

California Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology made a big impression at the June ITS America meeting in in San Jose, Calif. by bringing along three Class-8 truck tractors for Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control demonstration rides.

“This was a great opportunity to raise the level of awareness about our truck platooning effort, our partnership, and our organizations in a significant way,” says PATH Co-Director Tom West.

The demonstration provided visitors an opportunity to ride in a heavy truck on a freeway as part of a string of three trucks with the followers’ speed under cooperative adaptive cruise control (CACC) and understand the concept, firsthand.

“The CACC system enables the trucks to drive at a reduced vehicle following distance to reduce aerodynamic drag, thereby saving energy, and it also stabilizes traffic flow by reducing the delays in the trucks’ responses to speed variations,” says Dr. Steven Shladover, the Principal Investigator for PATH’s “Partially Automated Truck Platooning” project.

The CACC Demo team offered 25 demonstration rides (with a capacity for six participants, on each ride) over a three-day period. Riders were able to see closer and more accurate control of the gap and speed differences between trucks than normal adaptive cruise control, but the coupling was not as tight as a formally-structured platoon. This demonstration was developed by PATH and the Volvo Group under the sponsorship of the FHWA Exploratory Advanced Research Program and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

Participants took a short ride along the SR-87 freeway in San Jose, riding in the second and third trucks of the string. They experienced use of dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) vehicle-to-vehicle communication to coordinate truck speeds to follow each other accurately at constant time gaps. They also experienced the automatic response by PATH’s control system when a car cut in between the trucks, leading to the safe separation of the CACC string and switching to normal adaptive cruise control.

California PATH Chief Operations Officer Bob Meade said most of the demo rides were full throughout the conference, with people waiting at the U.S. DOT exhibit booth to take the place of potential no-shows. Participants included city and state Department of Transportation employees from California, and four other states as well as federal government officials and representatives from a variety of companies and research institutions. Also included were California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Director Malcolm Dougherty and several District and Division Directors, as well as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Acting Administrator.