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Successful Autonomous Driving Technology Tests for Truck Platooning

March 5, 2021

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) have set a goal for achieving autonomous driving technology that enables truck platooning with no drivers in following trucks to travel on expressways by the end of FY2020. This comes in view of the growth strategy, as an effort aiming to overcome challenges that the logistics industry is facing, e.g., shortages and aging of truck drivers, and improvement of fuel efficiency. In parallel with the development of vehicular technologies toward the goal, METI and MLIT have been advancing demonstration tests for the autonomous driving system using trucks in a platoon traveling on the Shin Tomei Expressway with no drivers in following trucks. Taking advantage of the results of these demonstration tests, on February 22 (Mon.), 2021, METI and MLIT successfully achieved traveling of trucks on part of the Shin Tomei Expressway in a platoon in which no drivers were present in either the second or the following trucks, with staff in only the passenger seat for security purposes.

METI and MLIT have set a goal for achieving autonomous driving technology that enables truck platooning with no drivers in following trucks to travel on expressways by the end of FY2020. This comes in view of the growth strategy, as an effort aiming to overcome challenges that the distribution industry is facing, e.g., shortages and aging of truck drivers, and improvement of fuel efficiency. As part of this effort, the ministries commissioned a project titled “Demonstration for Social Implementation of Technology for Trucks Traveling in a Platoon” to Toyota Tsusho Corporation to advance development of vehicular technologies toward the goal. In parallel with this, they advanced demonstration tests of an autonomous driving system using trucks in a platoon with no drivers in following trucks traveling on the Shin Tomei Expressway between the Nagaizumi-Numazu Interchange and the Hamamatsu-Inasa Interchange for a distance of about 140km.

Taking advantage of the results of these demonstration tests, on February 22 (Mon.), 2021, METI and MLIT successfully achieved the autonomous driving technology for enabling  trucks in a platoon with no drivers in following trucks to travel on the Shin Tomei Expressway between the Enshu-Morimachi Parking Area and the Hamamatsu Service Area for a distance of about 15km.

The autonomous driving technology that enables trucks to travel in a platoon with no drivers in following trucks, which the ministries have successfully achieved this time, enables 3 large trucks to travel in a platoon while keeping an inter-vehicle distance of about 9m at a speed of 80km per hour.* In the demonstration tests, highly skilled staff in driving trucks boarded the passenger seats of the second and the following trucks from the viewpoint of safety.

*Note:
Installing functions on the trucks, e.g., those for keeping the predetermined inter-vehicle distance and following the leading vehicles, contributed to successful achievement of the traveling of the platoon at a speed of 80km per hour with an inter-vehicle distance of about 9m.

On March 8 (Mon.), 2021, METI will post video clips on the official METI YouTube channel to show scenes from the traveling of trucks in a platoon with no drivers in either the second or following trucks and to explain details of the autonomous driving system that enables trucks in a platoon to travel with no drivers in either the second or following trucks.

The growth strategy has also upheld a goal that as a future effort, Japan should aim to achieve traveling of trucks having technologies equivalent to the Level 4 Autonomous Driving Technologies on expressways in and after FY2025, and that, to this end, it should hold discussions on a system for operation control targeting trucks with high performance. Bearing this in mind, METI will continue to promote the development of trucks with high performance on which autonomous driving technology is mounted toward social implementation thereof, while taking advantage of outcomes derived from the autonomous driving technology that enables trucks to travel in a platoon with no drivers in either the second or following trucks, which the ministries have successfully achieved this time.

Links to related information

Division in Charge

ITS and Autonomous Driving Promotion Office, Automobile Division, Manufacturing Industries Bureau